Wednesday, May 16, 2012

What's Up? It's the App!

The Common Application for 2012-2013 college admissions is now available in preview form. Students can't submit it yet -- it won't be available for filling out online till August. But starting to think now about the information needed to complete it and what might make a good essay can save a lot of heartache and agita later. The Common App was begun in 1975 as a way to make the college application process easier. Today, 450 colleges use this form as their primary application. But many will also ask for additional short answers and essays geared to the specific school. Most of the information is straightforward. It asks about activities (but don't feel compelled to put something in all of those spaces) and includes forms for teacher recommendations. But here's what everyone really wants to see -- this year's essay topics, which don't differ greatly from previous years: Please write an essay of 250-500 words on a topic of your choice or on one of the options listed below, and attach it to your application before submission. Please indicate your topic by checking the appropriate box. This personal essay helps us become acquainted with you as a person and student, apart from courses, grades, test scores, and other objective data. It will also demonstrate your ability to organize your thoughts and express yourself. NOTE: Your Common Application essay should be the same for all colleges. Do not customize it in any way for individual colleges. Colleges that want customized essay responses will ask for them on a supplement form. * Evaluate a significant experience, achievement, risk you have taken, or ethical dilemma you have faced and its impact on you. * Discuss some issue of personal, local, national, or international concern and its importance to you. * Indicate a person who has had a significant influence on you, and describe that influence. * Describe a character in fiction, a historical figure, or a creative work (as in art, music or science, etc.) that has had an influence on you, and explain that influence. * A range of academic interests, personal perspectives, and life experiences adds much to the educational mix. Given your personal background, describe an experience that illustrates what you would bring to the diversity in a college community or an encounter that demonstrated the importance of diversity to you. * Topic of your choice. Summer vacation? Nonsense. It's essay time.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Thou Shalt Not Double Deposit

We know we shouldn't double dip a chip, or double park. Now, add double deposits at college to the list of no-no's. That's when a student and his family say what the heck and send deposits to two (or more) colleges to ensure a spot in the freshman class of that school. You might do it because you still haven't made up your mind about the school for you, are still negotiating financial aid at another school, or are protecting yourself while waiting to hear about waitlist status. Why is this a problem? -- It's a waste of money. You send a few hundred dollars sent to the college you do not attend. -- It's not nice. You are lying to at least one college about attending. -- It's mean. By taking up space for however long, you are denying a kid on the waitlist a place at the college. Oh, and you could get in trouble and see your acceptance rescinded. For a look at admissions ethics, including double deposits, take a look at this College Board discussion.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Don't Despair: Good Colleges Still Have Openings

After an even tougher admissions season than last year, just about all high school seniors heading to college now know where they’re going; May 1 was the deadline. That means colleges found out if fewer kids accepted admission than anticipated -- and how many slots they still had open. For kids who felt they weren’t left with decent choices for college, including the financial component, here’s The National Association for College Admissions Counseling (NACAC)list of 375 colleges that have room in their classes of 2016. This is a noble task that NACAC takes on, one that colleges and students can appreciate. And it reminds us that there are always open doors, always second chances. If you are still looking for a college, good luck and study this list well.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Tit for Tat in the Education/Entertainment Sphere

My daughter is a huge Stephen Colbert fan -- despite the fact he did not even bother to respond to her heartfelt request for a summer internship opportunity. She has forgiven him, I have not. And apparently some people at MIT aren't in a forgiving mood either. In a recent interview Colbert did with an education expert, MIT was mentioned. Colbert scoffed, calling it a "tech school" and the "Harvard of DeVrys," that chain of for-profit schools. So, MIT's dean of admissions did a take-off on Colbert. For a little weekend amusement, take a look. Comedians, admissions officers -- gee, do they share some DNA?

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Juniors -- You Will Survive, As the Song Says

Juniors right now are dying. Not actually, of course, but they may feel like it. The standardized tests, the pressure to finish junior year with flying colors (if applying in the fall, these are the last grades colleges will see); trying to figure out how to spend the summer. It's enough to make a teen weep. Here's a list of the things to consider during these last six weeks or so. One of the important reminders: start asking for letters of recommendation this year in order to beat the fall rush. This gives your teacher more time to write a thoughtful letter. And always remember to ask whether the letter will be a positive one. If not, move on. Good luck, juniors, and just keep your eye on the prize. No, not college! Getting this spring behind you.