College Admissions

Juniors: This one says college, that one says university -- What's in a name?

 

As you research colleges for an initial list of schools to which you may apply, understanding how they "name" or characterize themselves may provide important information. Whether a school is a “college” or a “university” can make a difference.

Most— but not all— colleges and universities offer a liberal education. That doesn’t refer to politics! “Liberal” in this case goes back to the original meaning of the word: “unrestricted.” It’s an educational approach where a student is called on to examine problems and issues from multiple vantage points and learns how to think, communicate, question, and probe. The rationale behind a liberal education is that the world is changing rapidly and training for a specific discipline or job is ultimately less practical than learning how to be ready for a world unknown.

Undergraduate education in the United States is dominated by institutions that hold to the notion that a liberal education is the best way to prepare for a life of significance, meaning, and means. There are, however, also terrificc options that do not insist students be liberally educated.

Juniors: Strike up a conversation with students while visiting campus

You got the admission office perspective at the info session and on the tour, but don’t forget to get the unofficial perspective during your downtime on campus. The best way to do that is to talk to current students who aren’t on the admission office “payroll.” Conquer any shyness and strike up a conversation with the girl studying on the quad or the guy in line at the bookstore. Most students are more than happy to talk with your about their experience! Your opening line can be as simple as “I’m visiting because I might apply to come here. Mind if I ask you something?” And then ask away:

• Why did you decide to go to school here?

• What was your biggest surprise about the school?

• How much time do you spend studying? Where do you study?

• How hard is it to get the classes you need?

• Do students get along well with each other?

• Why do students like the school?

• What are the drawbacks to going to school here?

• Who fits in here and who doesn’t?

• If you could change anything about this school, what would it be?

• How much time do students spend studying?

• How do you meet people on campus?

• What is the social life like on campus?

• What do you like most about the school?

• What was freshman year like? How difficult was the transition?

Best Advice for the Wait List

As decision letters roll in, some students may find themselves waitlisted. If placed on a waitlist, you haven’t been accepted and you haven’t been denied. You’re in limbo, and that can be stressful. Students rarely anticipate they will be placed on a waitlist at one of the colleges where they have applied, but they very well may be and it's important to understand what your next steps should be.

So this month we asked our experts: "What is your best advice for students who are waitlisted?" Today and tomorrow, we'll be bringing you the excellent insights and guidance from these high school college counselors who know best.

John E. (Jake) Talmage
Director of College Counseling
St. Paul’s School
Brooklandville, Maryland

A couple of years ago, one of my senior boys was waitlisted by his first choice college. He was devastated. As the month of April progressed, he and I were in touch with this college and learned that the college had moved to the waitlist twice in the previous three years. In both cases, the college had needed men (like many liberal arts schools, the college is more popular with girls), so we held out hope. In early May, we heard rumors that the college had started to admit some students off the waitlist. So, we contacted the admission office. During this call, an admission officer told us, “Surprisingly, we are going for girls.” 

Fred Hargadon on College Admission and the Dodecahedron

Last week Fred Hargadon passed away. Hargadon worked in admissions at Swarthmore, Stanford and Princeton. In any room where college admissions people meet, there will be Fred Hargadon anecdotes. (We have several in our book!) He was a great communicator, with a dead aim for the college application process, conveyed with compassion and a wry sense of humor.  His acceptance letters from Princeton famously began with the single word "YES!," a phrase now carved in stone in front of Princeton's Hargadon Hall, the dormitory named in his honor.

Joyce Smith, executive director of the National Association for College Admission Counseling, recently shared a letter Hargadon wrote to prospective students and we'd like to share it with you. You have to love a letter that citesThe Phantom Tollbooth, Harry Potter's sorting hat, SAT scores and becoming bilingual. 

Here's one of our favorite pieces of advice:

Seniors: Have you requested your Letters of Recommendation?

Most private colleges -- and more and more public universities -- require letters of recommendation from one or two classroom teachers of academic subjects and the high school guidance or college counselor. Make the job easier for the teachers and counselor who will write your recommendations by providing them with a list of the colleges to which you are applying, deadlines for the recommendations and any required forms. In order to get the best result, it may also be helpful to provide the teachers who are writing your recommendations with an updated list of activities and any honors you have received, as well as a note telling them why you have chosen them to write for you.

If you have not requested these letters of recommendation, do so immediately by speaking in person with your teachers and counselor.  And don’t forget to check the policies and guidelines for recommendations of both your high school and the colleges to which you're applying to be sure all requirements are being met.

And don't forget to say thank you!

Resource Lists for Students and Counselors

For eighteen years, high school counselor Cigus Vanni has created and maintained a series of lists that are great tools for students -- and counselors. These lists track schools that require two teacher recommendations; schools in the U.S. that offer non-binding Early Action admission plans; schools in the US that offer binding Early Decision plans (with annotated crossovers, designations for restricted plans and tagging of schools that offer both EA and ED); and mid-50% SAT ranges for more than three hundred U.S. schools.  We're delighted he is back again to share his 2013 lists with our readers. Because of the length of the lists, we'll be featuring them as separate posts over the next few days. Up first: Schools that offer binding early decision (ED) Plans.

What’s in a name? Is there a difference between a college and a university?: Advice for Juniors Researching Colleges

As you research colleges this summer to come up with an initial list of schools where you may apply, understanding how they characterize themselves may provide important information. Whether a school is a “college” or a “university” can make a difference.

Most— but not all— colleges and universities offer a liberal education. That doesn’t refer to politics! “Liberal” in this case goes back to the original meaning of the word: “unrestricted.” It’s an educational approach where a student is called on to examine problems and issues from multiple vantage points and learns how to think, communicate, question, and probe. The rationale behind a liberal education is that the world is changing rapidly and training for a specific discipline or job is ultimately less practical than learning how to be ready for a world unknown.

Undergraduate education in the United States is dominated by institutions that hold to the notion that a liberal education is the best way to prepare for a life of significance, meaning, and means. There are, however, also terrificc options that do not insist students be liberally educated.

Here are the def nitions of the four general categories of selective four- year higher education

institutions:

Juniors: Resources for Kickstarting Your Essays this Summer

We strongly urge you to have at least your Common Application essay in good shape before senior year begins. Fall of senior year is a busy time and writing your essays while attending school is like adding a class to your schedule. Summer provides the luxury of uninterrupted time to reflect and write. Here's some advice to kickstart your essays over the coming summer months -- from a suggested reading list that we hope will inspire to some excellent step-by-step guidance on the new Common Application essay prompts.

Finding Your Voice in the Essay:  A suggested reading list of first-person essays.

The Real Topic of your Essay is You: One strategy to help you find a topic.

What are colleges looking for in the essay?

Great essay advice from the deans at Vanderbilt, Chicago, University of Illinois and more.

Pushing the Right Brick for Diagon Alley  Writer and independent college consultant Irena Smith on getting started -- and getting personal -- in the college essay.

A Summer To Do List for Graduating Seniors

Your decision is made and you know where you're headed next fall. But there are still a few things you need to be aware of over the summer in order to insure the transition to campus goes smoothly. Here's one last checklist for you:

• Follow up on any remaining financial aid details.

• Look for summer mailings from your college about housing, orientation, course selection, and other subjects. If you will be away for a significant part of the summer, be sure the college knows where to send your mail, or arrange for your mail to be forwarded. A response from you may be required.

• Make your first payment on time.

• Complete the summer reading assigned by the college.

• Pack for college. Have a wonderful freshman year!

So that's it -- we're out of advice for you. But we will point you in the direction of our excellent move-in advice for college freshmen, which you will find here. Check it out. It will save you -- and your parents -- from back problems, heat exhaustion and repeat trips to the electronics store for cable cords.  

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