Come Hear Felicia Speak!
"College Admissions Essays: What To Know," Gunn High School, May 8th
"Finding Colleges That Fit," Palo Alto Public Library @ Cubberly, 4pm, May 10th
"Admissions Essays: Write Now," Palo Alto Public Library @ Cubberly, 4pm, June 14th
Sunnyvale Public Library Spring/Summer 2014 TBD
Click the above for slide show
It is the middle of March and final admissions decisions are rolling out on a daily basis. Feelings of elation, confusion and disappointment surge simultaneously and pulse collectively. Students will wait for all the last minute details and then make a final decision. Come May 1st, however, they will be joyfully committed and now eager to finally embark on the new path before them.
Some quick tips:
As seniors are winding down, juniors are winding up for the hardest final months of school. Shortly, come June, the whole cycle will begin once again. At this interim in the college application process, I like to reflect on the lessons of the past application cycle. What worked and what didn’t? What new information can be gleamed from the admissions process? I delight to discover that each year brings new lessons, new information. Here are my reflections.
Observations - The Results of Admissions 2013
The most uttered phrase I have heard from admissions this spring was this: “We had thousands more applications this year.” Colleges such as those praised by Loren Pope, once thought by many to be “off the beaten track,” have gained widespread attention and have grown more competitive. In some cases, this means that colleges are requiring higher quantitative scores. GT claimed this year that with 12,000 applicants, no one with a weighted GPA of under 4.0 was admitted. Other schools have boasted that the surge in numbers has allowed them to become more diverse and to admit a wider range of students, thereby diversifying their campus. The rules of the game haven’t changed per se, but students should pay close attention to the trends this year and then choose their schools carefully. One other observation is that more colleges are taking demonstrated interest more seriously. Lehigh announced in 2012 that they had begun to count the number of times a student visited their website. As I see students who were deferred or wait listed at colleges that their peers of equal standing entered with ease, it becomes clear that colleges are more sensitive to being the “back up.” They have a growing statistical sense of who is accepting their offer of admission and they are getting smarter about making informed decisions at the admissions table. Again, what this means for all applicants in 2014 is the following: choose your colleges carefully, make the effort to show each one that you are serious about attending. Treat all colleges equally, independent of how you’ve ranked them in your own mind at this point.
Lesson 1 -- Don’t wait to fill out your application!
The 2013 application cycle was particularly challenging. Hands down, the king hurdle was contending with the bugs and glitches in the new Common Application (C4). While it is likely that the Common Application will have improved for the next admissions cycle 2014, it is also probable that some of the problems will persist, including unclear instructions, the absence of key details (word count on essays), lack of easy access to help, system delays and failures, and uneven interfacing with programs (such as Naviance), that run on the back end of the Common Application. Facing a frozen screen with an hour left to submit for the deadline is enough to render a serious panic attack. Don’t let this be the time you finally learn not to procrastinate anymore. Start early and make sure you fill out the Common Application far ahead of the deadline.
Lesson 2 -- Show yourself in many ways, and as well as you can.
College applications have various parts including essays, an activity list, an additional statement, and sometimes a resume or an academic paper. Take every opportunity to really share who you are with your admissions readers. If you read over a line in your activity list and feel that it doesn’t really say anything about you, then revise it so that it does.
Lesson 3 -- The you-inside-you couldn’t count more.
Today, almost all the students I meet are hardworking and tenacious. As a result, highlighting these qualities on your character tells admissions that you are just like everyone else. My new phrase last year was this: if your essay reveals a personal trait or story that one other person you know could share, then you haven’t proven that you are unique. Spend time drilling in on the scenes and details of your experience. Reflect. To wane metaphorical, what is particular about your fingerprint, your face, your gait. What makes you? Gaining a sense of this early on will help you create a sound list of colleges that are a great fit. Of equal importance, it will ease the process of writing essays and preparing interviews that clearly showcase your singularity.
Felicia Fahey PhD
Felicia is a comprehensive educational consultant. She works with college bound students of all ages close to home, across the country and around the globe.