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!
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.
March 11, 2007
Around this time of year, many juniors start feeling the pressure. Meetings between parents and college counselors appear on the calendar. Spring break becomes an opportunity to visit nearby colleges. The May SAT, AP exams, and SAT IIs become very real. All the while, the anticipation simmering within the senior class intensifies as April mailing deadlines creep closer. All of this trickles down to remind the college-bound junior that the process is just beginning.
It is important to keep in mind that you have two choices. First: this process can be fun, personal and exciting as long as you keep perspective on what you want, why you want it and how you’re going to try to get it. Second: this process can take on a life of its own guided by other people’s expectations, external pressures and unreliable information.
Having been away from writing for this blog, I’ll now start posting more regularly as a new part of the college admissions cycle begins. Feel free to post questions at any time.