College Pete

SPECIAL REPORT – Admissions 2011

SPECIAL REPORT – Admissions 2011

Now that the Class of 2015’s college applications are in, it’s time to give you the run-down on what has become a multi-year, highly commoditized and stressful process.  Especially for the parents.    As one Dean of Admissions at a top college told Jill (my office manager and better half) at a dinner the other night, “It’s a perfect storm of hyper-competitiveness” – we’re graduating the largest number of college bound high school seniors ever; Common Applications and technology have facilitated the process to the point that students now routinely apply to 15, even 20 schools with a simple click, and a university’s finances– including  the school’s Moody’s bond rating (I kid you not)– are dependent on, among other selective criteria,  the ratio of  applicants to acceptances (the higher the healthier).  So, not surprisingly, Early Decision applications were up a whopping 30% this year!

Haven’t seen the overall tally yet, but for perspective, in 1990 one college I’m familiar with received 7,200 applications for 1,700 spots… this year they received 17,000 – but they still only have 1,700 spots!  And this school uses the supplemental application – if they required just the Common App, they would have had 20,000 applicants easy.

Oh, and of those applicants at this school, 76% meet the minimum academic application requirements – a statistic that is typical across the board.  So, you have to make yourself standout – show texture and uniqueness, beyond name, rank and serial number if you want to ensure admittance.

Some of this info is readily available; some (like that 76% number) is not.  Much of this information was graciously shared with Jill and me by admissions officers and one Dean of Admissions from a cross-section of colleges and universities around the country.   This is the inside view that is not released, and will not be reported in the NY Times (or anywhere else).

Stuff like this:  The admissions offices know all about every high school, yours included – and what they offer — and how rigorous their academics are, how much they inflate or don’t inflate grades – and THAT is sometimes the first ‘sort’ that they make.   Then grades, then scores.  Then they read the whole application for all who made the sort.  The last thing they look at is alumni interviews, but they do look – and it can sway a borderline candidate, so if they’re offered, do it!

And this:  the admissions office weights 11th and 12th grade years more than the earlier years – especially for boys, less so for girls.  It might seem unfair, but that’s what I was told.

And this:  it is easier to get into some ‘programs’ than others like, for example, if you want to go to NYU for engineering and don’t quite have the grades, apply to Brooklyn Polytechnic University (same school, same NYU degree) but a whole lot easier to get into.

Also, while ‘legacies’ don’t get special treatment, they seem to be accepted at twice the rate of the general applicant pool at some of the smaller, private universities.  hmmm

Oh, and contrary to popular belief, Early Decision may not really be an advantage (it’s a huge DISadvantage in financial aid).

Ok, this one can be a little awkward.  It’s a parental warning.  No matter how tempting:  never call, write to or otherwise lobby for your child to any admission’s officer (don’t be the nightmare parent).  On the other hand, it is always appropriate and welcome, in fact, for your child to call, ask questions and initiate a conversation with the admissions office.

This is as true for parents of 11th graders who are just getting started and for parents of 12th graders who are waiting with bated breath for the ‘thick’ envelopes to arrive.   Admissions officers do not bite and generally are only a few years removed from school themselves, so tell your kids not to be intimidated.  Need proof? Have your son or daughter go to You Tube and search ‘Centre College’.  Last month 8 of their admission’s officers posted a ‘tongue-in-cheek’ (their words) look at the process. (By the way, this is not at all the case with the financial aid office; you (not your children) should be the main contact with these folks, but we’ll save that for another email).

That said, there are productive ways to enhance your child’s chances of acceptance – even after the applications are in.  In fact, later this month, I’ll be hosting a webinar with a local guru who has been a private Admissions counselor for 30 years, on the Top Five Things You Can Do Now To Improve Your Child’s Chances of Admission! I’ll make the link available on our site at the end of the month.

For my 11th grade parents – I hope you realize that NOW is the time to start planning both for admissions and financial aid.   Why?  First, you want to be proactive in researching schools so that you have a list of schools that meet your child’s academic, social and emotional requirements– and your financial needs (you’ll want to consider the VALUE of the school, not the Sticker price).   Your child’s list should be put together by the summer which means they should be taking all their standardized tests and any diagnostic assessments before June.
Note: If you want to see how Florida’s school’s fared in value, check out Kiplinger’s report on College Value or register for my upcoming college funding classes – hint:  we didn’t do so well.

Another reason to start now: many of Florida’s universities open their enrollment in August, before school starts.  You can apply to UF on July 1.  And you want to encourage your children to get their applications in early (not Early Decision – , I’ll save that soapbox speech for another email)… when the admissions officers are freshest.   Remember this is competitive, yet the technology seems to foster procrastination.  This December 31st, for example, one very frazzled (and bitter) officer who thought he was almost done, told us that he had received more than 25% of the applications.  Happy ‘bleepin’ New Year.

What that means is that your children need to meet with the guidance department and/or BRACE advisor now to find out the process for sending transcripts and other forms, and to figure out where to apply.  On December 28th, I had one very nervous student who realized at the last minute that she needed a form signed but the guidance counselor was long gone on vacation. It all worked out this time, but consider this a cautionary tale and an incentive to get your act together early, as in now.

And on that note, I think I’ll sign off.  I just wanted to make sure that I shared some of these insights while they were fresh.  And before we got into ‘Acceptance’ and ‘Appeal’ season.

So, have a great weekend.  If you have any questions, please send them to  Or better still, I’m conducting two workshops later this month.  To learn more or to register, you can visit

I look forward to hearing from you or seeing you soon.

Peter Ratzan
College Funding Specialists, Inc.

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