It’s been a long time since I’ve written. In part, this is because I’ve been busy working at Zinch.com. I periodically write for the blog there so feel free to check it out – and set up a profile while you’re at it. It’s a great organization.

If you decide to write a letter expressing your continued interest in a college, it doesn’t matter much to whom you address it. If you knew the specific admissions officer that read your application, address it to him or her. Examples of this include – having been interviewed by the regional admissions officer, having met that admissions officer when s/he visited your high school, spoken on the phone or exchanged emails. Generally, if you know that the admissions officer knows who you are, address the letter personally. If not, a “Dear [college] Admissions Office[r], ” will work just fine.

Behavior on visits

April 8, 2007

When I worked in admissions, we had a few incidents where admitted students came for a visit and subsequently got in a little trouble. The excitement of being on a college campus, the rush of independence from your parents for a few days, the accessibility of free and plentiful alcohol, the freedom from your high school classes, the validation of a college acceptance coupled with the flattery of a college wooing you often lead to a loss of judgment.

If you visit a college, remember that your behavior is expected to be on par with what the admissions office assumed about you from your application. Get drunk, get arrested, or misbehave and you may find yourself on an early bus back home. Universities do have the right to rescind offers under certain circumstances and, for all of you who received waitlist letters, you know there’s an eager army of students who would happily take the place of someone seen as not valuing the opportunity.

Whatever you do, don’t do anything that would result in a phone call to the dean of admissions in the middle of the night because you’ve been picked up by campus security. Universities tend to frown on that sort of thing.

Getting waitlisted can be frustrating, confusing and/or exciting depending on what your expectations were in applying to that college. It’s frustrating because, similar to being deferred, it’s not a final answer. It’s a “hold on…. lets just wait it out” kind of answer. It may turn into an acceptance. It may turn into a rejection. It’s confusing because you have no idea what your fate will be regarding admittance to that college (and people have all sorts of theories about colleges and their waitlists). It’s exciting because you still may have a chance. These days, when competition has never been more fierce, a waitlist letter, while not an acceptance letter is also not a rejection.

What to do if you receive a waitlist letter? If you are still interested in that school and would attend if removed from the waitlist, you should contact the college asap. This contact should be in writing and it should be brief (one page). What you want to convey is that you remain interested, that [blank] University is your first choice, and that you will matriculate if admitted. Let them know you’re a sure thing (but only if you are). Then write about anything that may be relevant – awards won, leadership positions earned, or other significant accomplishments that, had you earned them prior to submitting your application, you would’ve incoroporated in the original application.

What not to do if you’re waitlisted? Here’s where students go wrong. Do not send daily letters to the admissions office until you’re taking off the waitlist explaining all the trials of life as a waitlisted student and reasons you should be admitted. Do not send gifts. Do not make multiple phone calls. Do not have every alum you know contact the college. Do not visit the college and sit in their reception area until someone agrees to admit you. In general, do not be creepy or annoying.

You may call the office and express your sincere interest in attending the college and ask directly what would be beneficial. The admissions office may have their own ideas of what they need from you but typically, they’ll ask you to write a letter. Bottom line – be respectful of the process and the difficult decisions the admissions officers had to make.

Not getting in

April 2, 2007

If you do not get into a college or university you had your heart set on you have a few choices of how to handle the decision. First, you can accept it, focus on schools that did accept you and move on. Second, you can call the university admissions office and request to speak with an admissions officer to learn why you were not admitted. Third, you can ask your guidance/college counselor to call on your behalf. Often this information is helpful in coming to terms with a rejection. It may also prove valuable if you choose to apply as a transfer student in the future.

For private colleges, requesting a review of your decision isn’t really an option, so don’t call them and ask for one more chance. This is tricky because it implies that they did not do an adequate job the first time around. Most private liberal arts schools take great care in reviewing your application during reading season, and all decisions, once mailed, are final. Some schools (like the City University of New York system) may entertain the possibility of reconsidering an applicant after decisions are made if there is miscommunication or missing materials. I write this purely from one experience where the CUNY office said they did not receive SAT scores and therefore could not admit the student. For selective schools, best not to call or show up and ask them to reconsider. They won’t.

Admitted Student Visits

March 26, 2007

For those of you receiving acceptance letters, congratulations!

Most likely, you will be invited to visit the schools for a day or two. In my opinion it’s very important to go on these visits as long as you are truly considering attending. These are not mini-vacations designed as opportunities to skip high school classes, attend college parties, stay out all night etc. Granted, this comes with the territory and plenty would argue that that is part of the process, but be sure to approach these visits thoughtfully.

If you go, be respectful of your high school teachers and give them the heads up that you will be missing school.

Second, once at the college, attend classes. You are not there just to sample the food, go to social events, and assess the size of the dorm rooms. You should be just as critical about the academic climate, as you are about the asthetics of the campus, or student body for example. Do the students seem competitive? Are the professors engaging? Are the students actively paying attention, doing the work, taking school as seriously as you would (however serious that may be)? Is there a healthy work/play balance?

Third, academics aside, do you feel like you could fit in and thrive in that community? Often at this stage the most important thing to be aware of is how your gut feels. Your instincts will help decide whether you think you could see yourself at a given school.

Fourth, how involved are students in activities outside the classroom? And how supportive and respectful are students of one another’s extracurricular pursuits?

The admissions office will be busy assembling a schedule of events to entice you to enroll. Be mindful that once you matriculate, no singular office will be bending over backwards to concern itself with ensuring you’re entertained and stimulated at all times. Try to get to know the school independent of the fanfare surrounding your visit, but don’t necessarily do that in disregard of the scheduled events. The scheduled events are designed to showcase the best the school has to offer – check them out. But be sure to take time to think independently, go off the beaten path, shadow your host for a day, or, if your host has distinctly different interests that you, ask him or her to help you find someone whose interests better overlap. Take a walk by yourself around the town or city to consider whether you could see yourself there for four years.

Presumably you’ve done plenty of research to get to this point. Now’s your chance to feel it out knowing it’s finally a reality. Enjoy!

Mailing Date

March 21, 2007

Some of you may have already heard from schools, but for those of you still waiting, it’s almost time. When I worked in admissions, we mailed on April 1 (as with all Ivies) which is a Sunday this year. Most likely schools will still mail sometime around that date.

If you’re really anxious you can call the admissions office but before doing that, ask your guidance counselor to see if s/he has spoken with your colleges. If not, and if you just can’t bear to run home everyday to check the mail, check the school’s website and if the information isn’t there, call. Be ready, though, that they may give you the unsatisfying answer of “soon.” Remember also that they may be communicating decisions electronically in conjunction with mailing letters.

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