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College Admission Advice – A Process of Exploration

For this year’s high school seniors, the college application process is behind them. For many, the huge disappointment of being rejected from their early decision 1 school or from other schools for which they applied regular decision has been replaced by the delight of acceptance letters and the sense of options and possibilities.

For students and their parents starting the process as juniors (or even earlier for the inquisitive and hearty), I have some advice.

First, recognize that it is a process of exploration. It is a process of exploration to learn about colleges and universities and what they have to offer but, most importantly, for the student to learn about himself or herself. Learning to identify what one wants in a college environment and what one values and finds comfortable and appealing – whether being distant or close to home, small class size or large lecture hall style, a campus that is walkable to town or self contained, a curriculum that is flexible or with core distribution requirements, a rigorous or relaxed academic environment, strength in particular academic areas, accessibility of teaching faculty or research opportunities, the lay of the land and the look of the campus and its students – these are the kinds of questions that one should ask of the school and of oneself as one explores what is out there and determines over time what personally matters most. Maybe more important than SAT score ranges or percentage admits, these characteristics will help define “fit” for you.

Second, be realistic. In this highly competitive climate, trying to identify the level of school for which one will gain admission is very difficult. Being realistic and broad in one’s range of possibilities is critical. Talk to others in your community to gain a sense of recent admission history and experiences. Anecdotes about the experiences of students a year or two ahead of you can help inform you of the competitive terrain.

Third, when it is time to apply to schools in the fall and winter of the senior year, develop a thoughtful application strategy. That strategic approach must reflect one’s preferences about schools and fit. Equally as important, it must also be based on one’s personal style, comfort level, risk aversion, budget and other factors. Whether one chooses to apply to many schools, to schools perceived as high/medium/low in likelihood of acceptance (safety, range or reach) for the particular student, to an early decision 1 school, to schools that offer early action plans and more, all of that must be a personal decision of the student and family based on a strategy that is comfortable for that unique family.

As the seniors now make their acceptance decisions, not only do they know where and when but, hopefully, why. And that, the discovery of the why that results in a particular acceptance decision, may be the most exciting part of the process!

Published as a Community View column in The Journal News on April 24, 2005 and entitled “What college applicants need to find out,” and as Letters to the Editor in The Globe, the student newspaper of Mamaroneck High School, on May 22, 2005, and in The Sound and Town Report on April 22, 2005.

Posted by UberMusings / Posted on 24 Apr