I write to you from lovely New Jersey, where I am attending the Higher Education Consultants Association Annual Conference. HECA is a fast growing group of 651 independent counselors all committed to helping high school students find the right college that maximizes their potential.
Yesterday I heard from admissions officers from some very selective colleges, including Dartmouth, Brandeis, Muhlenberg, and University of Delaware, and a former director of admissions from Princeton, Vanderbilt, and Bowdoin. What they disclosed (and/or confirmed) will definitely raise a few eyebrows… for example,
- The whole admissions process IS indeed heavily (and disproportionately) influenced by US News & World Report. They are encouraged to support applicants who can help boost a school’s ranking in this widely circulated and utilized report.
- Schools are increasingly liking the ‘gap year’ for some students, as it has shown to result in a higher 4-year graduation rate (see point number 1). One caveat, the ‘year off’ should involve a meaningful activity like an intellectual pursuit, service to the community, a mentor/mentee relationship or a job.
- Gender can creep into the process. Specifically, young women are at a disadvantage in the liberal arts pursuits relative to men; while the reverse may be true for STEM pursuits.
- Typically, the first and arguably the most influential read of your student’s application will be done by the Admission’s committee’s regional representative, and it takes him/her just 20 minutes to do so. 20 minutes to make a lasting (positive) impression — it’s imperative that your student establish a personal relationship with the regional rep in advance.
- Schools want to be wanted. Showing interest in a college can be critical. While schools don’t penalize you for not visiting their campus, they can track whether you open their emails or visit their website. Admissions officers LOVE to hear from students directly.
- They can sniff out a ‘padded or packaged’ application from a mile away. Don’t be inauthentic. Instead, include only those “intangibles” in the application that demonstrate a sustained commitment to an extra-curricular activity or interest; or express a true energy and passion for academics; and are consistent with the authenticity of the application.
- Characteristics that stand out include well-informed kids (those who can speak about many topics, including current events); kids who involve themselves in more than one “group” in high school (i.e. basketball team captain and star in the high school musical, a la Troy Bolton); and kids who are catalysts in the classroom as constructive drivers of discussion (even if they aren’t A students).
- The contest for financial aid dollars (need-based and institutional merit endowments) is becoming increasingly competitive as more applicants vie for a shrinking pool of money. And the firewall between business and academia can be porous sometimes. The admissions office will often go out of their way for applicants who stand out to them, AND I have personally seen (many times) that if a school wants your child badly enough, they will find a way to make it financially viable.
I will elaborate on these trends and share my conclusions on how to use this knowledge to stack the odds in your favor at my Thick Envelope Admissions and Application Boot Camp on Saturday, June 30. I only have a few spots left, so if your student is a rising 12th grader, this is an event they won’t want to miss. There is a fee to attend, but it’s well worth it. The deadline to register is Monday, June 25. After that date I will be closing registration for this Early Bird event.
I will also be sharing many of these findings, as well as offering a thorough explanation of how the financial aid process (need-based and institutional merit endowments) are deeply intertwined with these admissions trends, at my next public workshop in July. If you want to know how you can send your kids to an elite college without blowing through all of your savings or sacrificing your lifestyle, then I highly recommend attending this event. This is the only public workshop I’ll be offering this summer. There is no cost to attend, but missing this information may cost you thousands of dollars.
College is expensive (duh!), so why not try to minimize your out of pocket cost by putting your family in the best position to receive a discount. I have hard evidence that if a school wants your child badly enough, they will find a way to make it affordable for you. I will be discussing this intersection of admissions and funding at my class in July. Click here to register – I look forward to seeing you there.