Inside the Admissions Office, Number 12

It was another great night for Inside the Admissions Office at the Mid-Westchester JCC in Scarsdale Monday night. Thank you to Lisa Itzkowitz, my partner in organizing the event, and to the college deans who participated, representing Binghamton University, Mount Holyoke College, Swarthmore College, Syracuse University, Union College and the University of Chicago. This was the 12thyear of the program, and my 12thas moderator.

Here are some of the takeaways from the evening:

  • Over half of all colleges and universities in the United States admit over half of the students who apply.
  • College admissions is about nuance and the needs of an institution. 
  • CONTEXT is important. Colleges look at the context behind your application – what the high school offers in terms of classes and activities, where a student lives, etc. 
  • Fit: academic, social, extracurricular – those elements are what matter to colleges.
  • Standardized tests are not a reflection of your character.
  • Tests are rarely the decision-makers.
  • Don’t assume that schools make assumptions if scores are not submitted.
  • When given the opportunity, try for the higher level class in high school but don’t sacrifice the arts and computer science, for example. 
  • Colleges look for rigor in the classes students you take. That is more important than the AP score.
  • Colleges also look for analysis from students – the thinking behind the “why.”
  • Unique is unusual in a college personal essay. Writing about the every day and the familiar is okay.
  • The application essay and the supplemental essays should be written in the same voice.
  • Colleges often look more closely at the supplemental essay; it often has a better student voice. 
  • The purpose of an interview is to share something about you with the college or university. But if you are very shy and quiet, you do not have to interview.
  • If you are going to ask a question of a college representative, you should make it a good one. 
  • Visit the schools you can visit, if you can. Start locally and then expand broadly to other areas or regions.
  • Parents, determine your parameters. Be up front with your teens as to those parameters. 
  • Everyone: Set expectations reasonably. 
  • All students have hooks. Figure out what yours are.
  • Colleges want students to thrive.