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IvyWise Experts' College Application Tips

Fri, Jun 08, 2012 @ 10:23 AM

Our Best Advice for Students Embarking on the College Admissions Process

College Admission TipsIvyWise students often begin working on the college admissions process in the spring of 11th grade, and many of our rising seniors complete the bulk of their college application work before even starting senior year! Once school ends, many students begin intensively researching colleges, creating a college list, and drafting essays. We’ve asked some of our college admissions counselors, advisers, and friends to share their best advice for students embarking on the college admissions process:

Changing your profile to fit what you believe an admissions committee is looking for will not increase your chances of admission. Admissions committees change all the time, but each is looking to craft a well-rounded freshman class based on the current pool of applicants. Second-guessing will only deter you from being yourself. Dr. Katherine Cohen

The best overall advice I can offer for your college application is to imagine that you are an admissions officer reading your own application. What you want is a clear, concise, and straightforward voice that leaps off the page, giving you an honest and immediate sense of who the applicant is. Dr. Katherine Cohen

You are going to college for an education. It is not about the swimming pool, the dorms, the food court, and the lawns. It is about your mind and what will happen to it as you learn and grow. Keep that in mind; everything else is secondary. Jon Reider, Director of College Counseling at San Francisco University High School; former Senior Admissions Officer at Stanford University

Resist brands and “names.” Ask yourself: “I know this is supposed to be a 'good, even great' college. But what do I really know about it? Can I name even one professor there? What is its philosophy?" Jon Reider, Director of College Counseling at San Francisco University High School; former Senior Admissions Officer at Stanford University

The idea of “fit” is often taken as a synonym for an objective relationship between you and a college, like a glass slipper that can “fit” Cinderella’s foot. But, in fact, colleges are much more like socks than slippers (or shoes.) You would do well, even thrive, at most schools. Be careful about dismissing colleges that you just didn’t like something about. How much did you really see? What can you really know? Look at it as a sock where you can adapt yourself. Jon Reider, Director of College Counseling at San Francisco University High School; former Senior Admissions Officer at Stanford University

The best advice I received about the college admissions process was from my high school counselor, who insisted that we research every college on our lists to make sure that each was a good fit, be it a reach, target, or likely school. I share this piece of advice with all my students. Christine, former Assistant Director of Admissions at Yale University and Georgetown University

Students often underplay their own accomplishments. Don't underestimate or discount the wonderful things you’ve accomplished. Meg, former Associate Dean of Admission at Princeton University and Amherst College

Don't freak out! Relax. It can be stressful but it’s important to have a plan and then to be flexible. Give yourself time…it takes a while to work on essays, to rewrite essays, to research schools, to visit schools, and to think about what the right fit might be for you as a student. Make time for the process, but also have fun with it. It can be a very enjoyable process and it really is the gateway to adulthood. Meg, former Associate Dean of Admission at Princeton University and Amherst College

What I really recommend to applicants is that they become as familiar as possible with any universities or colleges to which they are applying. Admissions officers are reading thousands of applications every year, and they start to sound really repetitive. A student who can express what their interests are and how those interests would translate to being a student at a particular school; those are the most effective applications. Abby, former Assistant Director of Admissions at Brown University and Application Reader at Princeton University

Many students complicate the college admissions process. Good planning and a thoughtful approach are really 90% of what a student needs. It’s pretty shocking how often students don’t follow directions or apply to schools that a little research would have revealed are not a match for the student. Scott, former Assistant Director of Admissions at Yale University

Students that have made the most out of the college application process and college experience have been those that are intrinsically motivated. They have developed and nurtured a sense of curiosity and drive that causes them to explore and question themselves and the world in a way that spurs growth. Jonathan, former Senior Assistant Director of Admissions at New York University

Sarah Shanahan

Written by Sarah Shanahan

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