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.
January 2, 2007
Happy New Year!
As I’m sure many of you know, post offices will be closed both January 1 and January 2. Don’t panic. If your application comes in a little late because of this, it’s ok. So is everyone else’s. If you’re applying online, however, get that in. Depending on what time zone you’re in you’ve still got plenty of hours. Good luck! You’re almost done….
December 15, 2006
Every school varies on how they approach the process of re-examining the deferred applications from the early pool. The acceptance rate for this group varies tremendously from college to college and can also vary from year to year within the same school.
The best thing to do is, first, ask your guidance counselor if you’re curious about the chances of acceptance later on to see if he or she has already obtained the statistics you’re seeking. Second, if your guidance counselor doesn’t know, call the college admissions office to find out. Remember, though, that regardless of overall statistics, your application was placed on that deferred list for individual reasons. If you decide to call the admissions office, best to ask about your application specifically as well as past statistics for general information.
If you’re going to ask about general statistics, here are the ones I think would be most useful.
1. How many students applied early?
2. How does this compare with past years?
3. For this year, what percentage were accepted, deffered, rejected?
4. From last year, about what percentage of deferred students were admitted in regular decision?
5. Do you have any predictions about how the [increase/decrease] in [applications/acceptance rates] this year will affect the percentage of students admitted from the deferred pool?
Be prepared that the admissions officer may not have an answer for the last question. It requires speculation that should not necessarily have any bearing on your chances. Additionally, all of these statistics are meant to give you an overall picture of the pool not of your particular, individual chances for acceptance.
December 13, 2006
Should you adhere to the specified word limits for personal statements?
Will admissions officers be counting those words? It’s unlikely, but you can bet that after reading hundreds upon hundreds of essays, admissions officers have a pretty good idea how long a 500 word essay is. If you go over a little bit, don’t worry, but be mindful that for as much as you may exceed the limit you need to have a good justification for doing so. If an essay can be editing down, it should be.
December 7, 2006
If you get deferred you may wonder what you can do to improve your chances of getting in when they review your application again later. Sadly there’s no magic answer. The best advice is to do the following:
1. Keep your grades up.
2. Write a letter to the admissions office stating your continued interest with any relevant updates on accomplishments, awards, new information.
Certain things will not help you get in if you’ve been deferred. My best advice is not to do the following:
1. Do not call the admissions office more than one time. You get one call. That’s all. Then you need to leave them alone. More than once can be annoying.
2. Don’t round up the alums. I’ve posted already about how ineffective it is when students call upon every distant friend, acquaintance, relative, former employer who may have attended the college some years in the past in an effort to get additional recommendations. I didn’t advice it then, and it’s not going to help now. Sure many students think, “well, I didn’t ask Mr Jones, Ms Mitchell and the next door neighbor when I first applied… and I got deferred… so what do I have to lose?” Sure, this is one way of looking at it. But there’s also the angle that these solicited letters, conveniently arrivingafter the receipt of the deferral letter stinks of desperation. If Mr Jones wants to write a letter upon hearing of your deferred status, he’s more than welcome to write – he won’t hurt your chances. Just don’t start going through your Outlook addressbook for contacts to write letters and petition the admissions office for acceptance.
3. Don’t send gifts/bribes.
4. Don’t take the opportunity to give updates as an open call to tell the admissions office of every goal you scored during the soccer season, your weekly GPA based on every quiz and graded homework etc. Students have done this. Not only is it not helpful, it’s puzzling that they would think it would be. Yes, you want to keep your name fresh in their heads and set yourself apart, but be mindful of the line between helpful and overwhelming.
5. Don’t yell and scream (at least not over the phone to the admissions office).
By the time they review your application later in the season you don’t want to be remembered as “that” student who sent that crazy package, made the multiple phone calls, sent daily letters or was so angry on the phone that you showed less than your best side.
December 2, 2006
Soon, those of you who applied early will be receiving letters of either the acceptance, rejection or deferral variety. I always thought these letters were clear but every year that I was working in admissions, a number of people seemed confused.
If you are accepted to a school early decision, congratulations, your college search is over and you do not need to spend your holiday break scrambling to send in more applications. You can go ahead and wear the sweatshirt or put the sticker on your car. Enter school the day after you receive this letter with grace and humility. There’s nothing worse than parading around at such a tense time of year.
When I was an admissions officer, we would say that students who were admitted early had to “withdraw applications” from the other schools to which they were applying. I always found this a little funny because I think most students hadn’t actually sent in all their other applications, and instead were waiting with crossed fingers, baited breath and chart topping anxiety for an acceptance. If they did not receive an acceptance from their early school, they’d go back to their common application, make any relevant updates, write out a few more application fee checks and grumble under their breath that they had to deal with this all over again – during the holidays no less.
If you’re waiting to find out about financial aid information (usually it accompanies the letter from the admissions office) and your ability to attend the school hinges on a substantial award, you retain the right to withdraw from the school if the financial aid award does not meet your needs. You can’t be expected to attend a school if you can not pay for it.
If you are deferred it means you have to wait until the spring to hear with the rest of the applicants who apply regular decision. Your application will be reconsidered with the regular decision pool. You may call the admissions office to see a) what weaknesses were in your application and b) if you can do anything to strengthen it in the meantime, but if you do, don’t be disappointed that you don’t get specific information. It’s not that the admissions officer is holding back or trying to be sly and mysterious about the process. It’s most likely because concrete reasons for why a student almost got in don’t exist. If you are deferred it’s almost always because the pool was strong and there were enough students who were more compelling, for whatever reason, that they slid in in front of you. You can’t point a finger at any one reason, any group of applicants because with international pools of top students applying to selective colleges, its just plain hard to get in, early or regular.
Sometimes a concrete reason does exist and it may be related to a drop in grades or low test scores. If you’re told such a thing, you’re lucky in a way because you’ve been given a solution for fixing it. If you don’t get a concrete reason, it means you were close enough to getting in that the college doesn’t want to close off the option of admitting you later on, which leads me to the last type of letter…
If you are rejected, the dance is done. You will not be reconsidered with the regular decision pool. Your application will be be reviewed again for one more chance. It’s the college version of the break up – it’s over and you will have to move on. But if that school remains your top choice and your interest and determination are not diminished, you can always apply to transfer.
November 24, 2006
For what it’s worth, colleges do not have a uniform, standard date of mailing early decision and early action letters. If your friends hear from schools before you do, it doesn’t mean anything. Each college is scrambling to try to get through all the early applications, make and mail decisions as efficiently as possible.
A school that saw an increase in applications this fall and did have a corresponding increase in staffing, that school may take longer. If a school saw a decrease, or just happens to have fast readers that school may mail out sooner. Chances are you’ll hear something via email first, and a letter will follow.
If you haven’t heard from a school by mid December, call them or check their website for any updates. Otherwise sit tight, your letters will arrive shortly.