Ralph Figueroa

Best Advice for the Wait List: Part II

We're back with more advice about the wait list. As one of our counselors put it yesterday, being on a wait list is like flying standby. You haven’t been accepted and you haven’t been denied. You’re in limbo, and that can be stressful. But there are some things you can and should do as you decide whether or not to accept a spot on a waitlist and, at the same time, make plans to move forward.

Here's more guidance from the high school college counselors who answered our Question of the Month: "What is your best advice for students who are waitlisted?" 

Rafael S. Figueroa
Dean of College Guidance
Albuquerque Academy
Albuquerque, New Mexico

You need to look at this situation in two different ways, simultaneously.

1.    Pick a college that admitted you.

Tell them you are attending and send in your deposit. Put the colleges that waitlisted you out of your mind. Move on. Get excited about the college you have chosen, and focus on the great experience you will have there.

2.    Don¹t give up on a waitlist college, if you really want to attend.

Let the college know that you remain very interested. Update them on any new information about you that is relevant to your admission. Be patient. Given the way that waitlist offers trickle down the chain of different schools, offers might not come until July or even August.

Ralph Figueroa on the New Essay Prompts: Room for Every Story

Ralph Figueroa is Dean of College Guidance at New Mexico’s Albuquerque Academy. Figueroa was one of 15 counselors who served on the Outreach Advisory Committee for the Common Application, advising the organization about the role that writing plays in an holistic selection process.

He joins us here today to talk about the new essay prompts, the process that resulted in the changes and the issues the committee grappled with to arrive at the new guidelines for students.


 What impact do you foresee the changes in the writing prompts having?


I hope that these changes will make students, families, and teachers think about these essays and talk about them in a new way. Change can be scary, but I am confident that when they read the prompts and the guidelines, they will realize that we have given them real freedom to find the best way to convey information about themselves that will give colleges a better idea of who they really are --beyond the numbers of the admission process.


What impact, if any, do you foresee for students?


Scott Anderson of the Common App on the New Essay Prompts

Last year, more than 2.5 million online applications were submitted to the Common Application’s 488 member colleges -- from Adelphi University to Yale. The next generation of the electronic form -- dubbed CA4 -- will launch in August of this year. But in the lead up to the unveiling of the digital makeover, the Common App last week announced new essay prompts, as well as a new length limit of 650 words, which will be enforced by the new technology. (You can see our earlier story here.) The Common Application Director of Outreach Scott Anderson joined us to talk more about these changes.

What was the impetus for the new essay prompts? Why was it seen as necessary?

For the last few years, two of our six essay prompts--topic of your choice and significant experience--have accounted for over 70% of all essays. That clustering prompted us to ask: "Can we make our prompts more appealing and, by extension, more effective, both as an invitation for students to share their stories and as a tool for helping our members make informed decisions?"

Common App Ch-ch-ch-Changes

Earlier this week the Common Application board of directors announced changes to the "Writing" section of the online form as part of the digital makeover to occur in August. High school students applying from the class of 2014 will choose from five new essay prompts and will no longer have the option of writing on the "topic of your choice." In addition, the maximum length for responses increases to 650 words.

Here are the new essay prompts:

*             Some students have a background or story that is so central to their identity that they believe their application would be incomplete      without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.

*             Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure. How did it affect you, and what lessons did you learn?

*             Reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or idea. What prompted you to act? Would you make the same decision again?

*             Describe a place or environment where you are perfectly content. What do you do or   experience there, and why is it meaningful to you?

*             Discuss an accomplishment or event, formal or informal, that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community, or family.

Coming soon: The Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes to the Common App

It's Common Application Week at College Admission. Starting tomorrow, we'll have commentary on the new essay prompts and word limits for the "Writing" section of the Common Application announced earlier this week, including guidance for how students can benefit from these changes. We'll be posting advice and insights from Common Application Director of Outreach Scott Anderson and Outreach Advisory Committee member Ralph Figueroa, Vice President for Enrollment at University of Connecticut Wayne Locust and more. And college advisor Alice Kleeman will be offering examples of possible topics that respond to each new prompt.

Ralph Figueroa, Albuquerque Academy

Ralph Figueroa is Director of College Guidance at Albuquerque Academy in New Mexico, an independent day school serving approximately 1,100 students in grades six through twelve. As Figueroa describes it, Albuquerque Academy provides its students with the high-powered college preparatory education of a selective school but with the less anxious attitude that typifies New Mexico. “It’s not high-pressure,” he says. “It’s not frenetic about the college process, kids are much more open to opportunities and options and there aren’t the huge family pressures you sometimes see other places.”