Today, I offer a summary of a report from Mom's College Cram Course's Virginia bureau. Christine Amrhine (full disclosure: my sister-in law)and her sophomore son recently attended a college night. They heard from representatives from James Madison University, University of Virginia, the University of Mary Washington, all state schools, and Georgetown.
By the way, just remember that Virginia has an impressive number of well-known, really good state schools. These schools like out-of-state students because they subsidize in-state kids and they lend diversity, an important aspect of the college experience.
Many of the points raised by the college reps are universal, but several are worth repeating. Here are some thoughts on the college search, from the James Madison rep:
* Here's a basic one we sometimes forget -- is the student ready to go to college right after high school? Why?
* Be sure to go to college fairs. (Our school, Columbia, has one on March 16, 7-9 p.m.)
* Go online to look at freshman profiles (GPA, SATs, curricula of the admits)
* Visit colleges when students are there and spend several hours; it's even better if the student can attend a class or so. The worst time to go -- between Christmas and New Year's, at night, when the campus is deserted.
The Georgetown rep discussed the application, and offered these suggestions:
* Let the college know what do you do for fun and who you are. Let admissions see clearly what you bring to the table.
* Georgetown is more focused on SAT than ACT scores. Take the test once or twice, but never more than three times.
* Don't procrastinate on the essay. Georgetown asks applicants to write 200 words on a special talent, but foolishly, 10 to 15 percent of the applicants leave that blank.
The UVA rep discussed the essay:
* Here's an interesting tip on how to get started on the essay. Divide a sheet of paper into four quadrants. In the upper left put "teachers, coaches, counselors," lower left put "friends, peers," upper right put "parents," lower right put "self." Come up with three adjectives that each group would use to describe you. You are a composite of your experiences and the people you've interacted with. Evaluate yourself as a student and as a person.
* There is no substitute for an academic record, but the essay is where admissions can get to know you. It's an opportunity to stand out.
* Explain if you have learned a valuable life lesson through extracurriculars, music, sports, part-time job.
* Think about details. Don't use words borrowed from the thesaurus.
* Write about you, what you'll add. UVA wants to know who you are. If you're hilarious, write a funny essay. If you're serious, don't try to write a funny essay.
We'll save the financial aid discussion for another day. Happy?