Here’s What Former Admissions Officers Want You to Know
If former admissions officers could do their own college admissions process over again, what do they wish they knew? Our team at IvyWise is made up for former deans and directors of admission from some of the top colleges and universities in the US, and they have some great advice for students preparing to apply to college either this fall or in the near future.
Getting some insider advice is key to finding success in the college admissions process. Often parents and students are bombarded with myths that are passed along as common knowledge but can actually be very misleading. At IvyWise we aim to demystify the college admissions process by providing tips and insight from experts who actually made admissions decisions for some of the country’s most selective schools.
Here are four pieces of college prep advice from former admissions officers and current IvyWise counselors!
Colleges evaluate applicants holistically, meaning they take into consideration the applicant as a whole person – not just their academics. Often this leads students to think they have to fit into a specific “mold” in order to gain favor with college admissions officers. This, however, is a big mistake as colleges want to get to know you – not who you think they want you to be. Students need to be genuine in their college applications, after all there’s only one you in the world! Genuinely convey your interests and goals in your college applications so that admissions officers can get to know the real you. Not only can this help you stand out on your own merits, but it can also help admissions officers advocate for you in the committee review process. In short – be yourself!
Align Your Curriculum and Interests
While colleges are looking at the applicant as a whole, grades and curriculum are still the most important factors that admissions officers consider when evaluating applicants. In conjunction with identifying and pursuing their interests, students should also explore their academic interests through their course selection. Students should choose challenging yet appropriate courses that align with their interests. For example, a student interested in STEM should pursue the most rigorous math and science classes available at their school. Be strategic about your course selection – colleges will notice!
Don’t Wait Until Junior Year to Start
This can’t be stressed enough – start early! Colleges look at courses, grades, activities, and more from all four years of high school – not just junior year. While many students don’t start thinking about college until 11th grade, that’s often too late to make any major changes in students’ activities and courses. Instead, start thinking about your academic journey in 9th grade. What courses do you need to take in order to reach the most rigorous curriculum by senior year? What activities can you pursue now in order to better focus your interests? If you’re already a sophomore, continue to evaluate your academic track and your activities. Are there other areas where you expand your impact or leadership? Be strategic and plan ahead!
College visits are a very important part of the college admissions process. Not only does it help students become familiar with schools of interest and get a first-hand view of the campus, but it can also help students demonstrate their interest. Even if you can only visit just a few of your top-choice schools it’s worth it! Plan ahead to register for an information session and guided tour that best fits your schedule and when school is in session. Visiting can also be an important “gut check” for students on the fence about a certain school.
This process is meant to be one of self-discovery. College prep isn’t just about getting into students’ top-choice colleges. It’s also about helping them discover their interests and pursue them in a genuine way. Students should be doing the things they love in high school, not what they think will “look good” on a college application. If students are pursing the courses and activities that they’re truly passionate about, the process will be much more fun and less stressful.
The college admissions process doesn't have to be daunting! By getting some insight from experts, you can make strategic choices that help you alleviate and stress and make the most of your college admissions experience! Still not sure where to start? Check out our free College Planning Checklist for a step-by-step look at what you need to be doing each year of high school to prepare!