demonstrated interest

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How Applications are Read

All too often I hear students talk about their grades and test scores as they hope to gain admission to one of the super-selective colleges. And while strong grades and outstanding test scores are absolutely important aspects of the process, they are far from the only ones. Admissions counselors across the country will read many more applications of standout students than they are capable of admitting. They are looking for specific factors, many of which can change from year to year based on institutional priorities such as needing a particular instrument in the band, filling seats in a new program or trying to expand geographic reach. When the dust has settled, many applicants who have worked hard to achieve A’s, who have scored well on the SAT or ACT, and who have received honors or awards for their achievement will be left out.

Is it fair? No, it isn’t. But, then again, very little about the college admissions process is fair. Rick Clark, Director of Undergraduate Admission at Georgia Tech, recently wrote an excellent piece about this very idea. If you haven’t read it yet, you should:

Ad(mission): It’s Not Fair

Today, I wanted to share some insight as to how your applications are read. This protocol will vary by some degree from school to school and from counselor to counselor, but understanding how each part of an application is looked at can be of value to the current crop of rising seniors who will be sending out applications in just a few months.

  1. The Application Itself

Information such as citizenship, ethnicity, family dynamics, and parents’ educational background are all of interest. These details set the table for who you are as an applicant and where you come from. High school information is also included but many admissions counselors will rely on your transcript and school profile to understand just how competitive you are.

When it comes to activities, the question now moves to what you will add to the campus community. Admissions counselors are looking for commitment, impact, initiative and passion. The bottom line: an activity that spans a lot of time throughout grades 9, 10, 11, and 12 says a whole lore more about what’s important to you and how you will benefit the college than one that was done one time, on a Saturday, during 9th grade.

  1. The Transcript and High School Profile

Your school profile is incredibly important to admissions counselors. Not only does it tell them the percentage of graduates who go on to four-year colleges, but it also sheds light on your high school’s curriculum.  How many AP courses are offered? What about honors courses or dual enrollment? Do you have an International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum? Admissions counselors want to know how well you challenged yourself based on what you had available to you. So while your transcript shows them what you did, it’s the school profile that shows them what you could have done.

  1. Recommendations

Colleges will typically require recommendations from the school counselor and at least one teacher. Depending on the school, a second teacher recommendation may be welcome as may be a recommendation from a coach, mentor or employer. Heck, some colleges even allow you to have a parent or your best friend submit a recommendation on your behalf. Regardless of the lineup, recommendations should be carefully considered. Admissions counselors are looking for key descriptions of you in action. Therefore you should think about the teachers who can provide evidence of your intellectual curiosity, your energy and enthusiasm for learning, your grit and resolve for when you had to work through some challenging material, and your humor and kindness towards others.

  1. The College Essay

I’ll get into essays in more detail as we head into the summer, but the more personal you can get with your essay, the more it will help you stand out. Admissions counselors don’t want essays that are academic or formulaic. Instead they want something organic; something that helps them become more interested in you as a person, especially at the most selective colleges where A averages and near perfect test scores are the norm. It’s a crowded pool and your essay is one of the very opportunities you have to show who you are as an individual.

  1. Demonstrated Interest

Admissions counselors are trying to admit a class of students who are most likely to enroll. This is called yield and it’s an important term in the college admissions world. Predict yield too high and you don’t have enough classes or residential beds for the incoming class. Predict too low and the college is running in the red. Neither is a scenario that colleges want to do deal with. The problem is that as the average number of applications students submit each year increases, it becomes harder for schools to know who their “real” applicants are.

And that’s why you demonstrate your interest. Because you want admission counselors to notice not only your academic qualifications, but your true interest in attending their college. Not all colleges track interest, but if you are applying to one who does, you want to make every effort to connect with them along the way.

There are other aspects of the process that can be taken into account, but the bottom line here is that you cannot just rely on your grades and test scores alone to help you gain admission.

If you would like some assistance with your college search process, contact me today for a free consultation.

Here’s what other families like yours are saying about how Dobler College Consulting made a difference for them.


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Why Just Submitting an Application isn’t Enough

Why Just Submitting An Application Is Not EnoughFrequently I find students applying to too many colleges. They think there’s some underlying mathematical equation that says the more colleges you apply to, the greater your chances are of being admitted to one.

Unfortunately, it’s just not true. Especially with the more selective schools that sit atop the various sets of rankings. If your profile as an applicant doesn’t match up well with what the school looks for,  no matter how many schools you apply to, admission isn’t likely.

So, what are students to do?

The first thing I tell my students to do is to get beyond this ever-growing obsession with brand names. In my experience, what you do with your college experience is more predictive of your future success in life. It’s not the name of the school or how highly they were ranked on US News or Forbes. In fact, in most high profile professional fields a bachelor’s degree doesn’t get you very far. You’re going to need a master’s degree, or more, and that’s where you should be more focused on name brand recognition.

It’s about where you finish, not where you start.

The second thing I tell them is to build a college list that is focused more on quality than quantity.

I tell them they should be applying to colleges they love and where they feel they will be happy and successful. I tell them to apply to colleges they can afford. I tell them to apply to colleges where they will find everything they are looking for, where they will grow as people and where they will be successful.

Sometimes this means the list of colleges is five, sometimes it’s eight.

Regardless of the number, what matters most is how much effort they put into connecting with these schools prior to applying. When a student has matched themselves up well with a college and then does the right things along the way such as visiting, sitting in on a class, interviewing with an admission counselor, meeting with a professor or coach, attending special visit programs or an open house – when some combination of these factors happens, admission becomes much more likely.

Why?

Because demonstrated interest matters more now than it ever has. Colleges are in the business of enrolling students and as the number of applications far exceeds the number of seats in an incoming class, it becomes critical for colleges to identify the students who are most likely to enroll. There are so many ways to demonstrate your interest to a school while you attempt to learn everything you can about it. Apply to too many schools and you may not be able to demonstrate your interest let alone put together quality applications.

Ultimately, there will be circumstances outside of your control so make peace with that idea and control what you can: which colleges you apply to and how sincere and genuine your interest is. You may not get in everywhere you apply to, but if you conduct your college search the right way, you will get into and enroll at a college you love.

If you would like some assistance with your college search, contact me today for a free 60-minute consultation.

Here’s what other families like yours are saying about how Dobler College Consulting made a difference for them.


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Demonstrating Your Interest to Colleges – Make it Count

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Franklin & Marshall College

As I visit colleges and talk with admission counselors, it has become rather clear that how much interest an applicant shows in a school really can matter.

Like anything in the college application process, applicants cannot afford to rely on doing the minimum and expect to be considered a strong applicant. Especially at the more selective schools where there are just too many applicants already.

What admission counselors are interested in are students who can do the work and who are likely to enroll. This is called yield and it’s something I talked about in a previous post:

Why Demonstrating Your Interest Matters

This is the aspect of the process that so many families fail to see. As much as an applicant may have worked hard to achieve strong grades and test scores, in the world of selective admissions, they have to be more than just grades and test scores if they are hoping to be competitive. At a certain point, a vast majority of the applicants can do the work but there are only so many seats in the incoming class. So as much as an applicant’s grades and test scores may look great on the surface, it’s also about how the college values other aspects of their profile when they are trying to make decisions.

And that’s where showing your interest in a school can help your chances.

But, there’s a catch.

As I mentioned already, if you want to make the most of this process and really position yourself as a strong candidate for a school that you are truly interested in, then you have to do more than the minimum.

What’s the minimum?

Just attending an information session and tour when a college offers an overnight program complete with an interview and the opportunity to sit in on a class and meet with current students.

Not even visiting a college who is within driving distance when they clearly state on their website that priority consideration for admission and scholarships will be given to students who visit.

An applicant who sends an email to an admission counselor to say how much he or she loves the school and then fails to continue the conversation when the admission counselor replies and asks the applicant a few follow-up questions.

If you really do love a college and you really do see yourself there then you really do need to go the extra mile to make sure the college knows this. Really, you do.

So, fill out the card and email the admissions counselor. Visit campus. Do all of those things. But, do more as well. Instead of just sending an email to say how interested you are, engage in a conversation about your major or a particular aspect of the school that excites you. Ask about meeting with or talking to faculty or current students. See if you can arrange to sit in on a class or spend an overnight on campus so you can attend an event or game. Schedule an interview with admissions – and don’t let distance dissuade you. Many schools will do interviews by phone or Skype knowing that finances can prevent a student from getting to campus. If you can’t get to campus, check to see if the school is running any admissions or alumni receptions in your area and connect with the school through social media.

College is one of life’s great journeys but it requires some hard work along the way. Put your best effort into this process and make the most of all opportunities to connect with colleges and admission counselors. You’ll be glad you did more often than not.

If you would like some assistance with your college search, contact me today for a free 60-minute consultation.

Here’s what other families like yours are saying about how Dobler College Consulting made a difference for them.


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Don’t Just Settle For The Basic Campus Tour

Get Beyond The Basic College VisitAs we approach the end of January, it’s time for high school juniors to be thinking about college visits for the spring. Visits usually entail an information session led by an admission officer as well as a tour led by one or more of the college’s tour guides.

The information sessions will typically cover the logistics of how to apply, averages for GPA and test scores, highlights regarding the school’s more popular majors, an honors program, study abroad opportunities and housing. In fact, visit enough colleges and you will see a basic pattern of information.

Tours on the other hand can land anywhere on the spectrum from amazing to boring. When you go on college tours, the tour guides will talk a lot about student life such as how you can get involved, clubs you can join, sporting events you can attend, and their favorite things to do on campus.

It’s the college experience and you should take it all in. But, what about academics?

Information sessions will mention certain majors or will delve into the philosophy behind the college’s core curriculum. Tour guides may talk about a certain professor or a class but how will you know if the academic environment is right for you?

This is where you have to be a little proactive and ask about sitting in on a class.

Not all colleges will allow it – in some cases, space may be limited, an exam is scheduled to be given or the college only offers special classroom visit programs for admitted students in the spring of their senior year such as the University of Connecticut’s “Husky For A Day” program. Either way, it is ALWAYS worth asking the admissions office if it’s a possibility.

Sitting in on a class is a great way to get a feel for what the students are like, how they and professors interact with one another, the technology that’s being used, and the pace and style of classroom instruction not to mention the size of a classroom.

If you are going to ask to sit in on a class, here’s a few tips to help you along:

  1. Call the admissions office several weeks in advance with your request to give them enough time to make the arrangements.
  1. Arrive on time (preferably a few minutes early) and plan on staying for the entire class.
  1. Introduce yourself to the professor so they know who you are and why you are there. Be sure to thank them for allowing you as a guest in their classroom.
  1. Turn off your cell phone or shut the ringer off. Your attention should be on the class, not your phone.

Obviously this is just one way to get a deeper, more intimate look at a college. But it’s one you should absolutely investigate if you have any concerns about the academic environment.

If you would like some assistance with your college search, contact me today for a free 60-minute consultation.

Here’s what other families like yours are saying about how Dobler College Consulting made a difference for them.


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How Many Colleges You Apply To Matters

Hofstra University

Hofstra University

I often get asked the question, “How many colleges should I apply to?” I’ve heard many arguments for the “right” number of schools and, to be honest, I think it’s all a crapshoot. As every student is different in his or her abilities, profile, priorities, and goals, the right number of colleges for each student is just as subjective.

So what do I tell students when they ask? I tell them to apply to colleges they love and where they feel they will be happy and successful. I tell them to apply to colleges they can afford. I tell them to apply to colleges where they will find everything they are looking for, where they will grow as people and where they will be successful.

Sometimes this means the list of colleges is five, sometimes it’s eight. Sometimes, though not often, it’s many more.

Regardless of your number, here’s a few other things to consider:

Demonstrated Interest matters more now than it ever has.

Colleges are in the business of enrolling students and as the number of applications far exceeds the number of seats in an incoming class, it becomes critical for colleges to identify the students who are most likely to enroll. Visiting, interviewing, emailing and calling admission counselors, sitting in on a class, talking to a coach or faculty member – there are so many ways to demonstrate your interest to a school while you attempt to learn everything you can about it. Apply to too many schools and you may not be able to demonstrate your interest let alone put together quality applications.

Application fees add up quickly.

While some schools will hand out fee waivers for having visited their campus, most schools are charging application fees that can range anywhere from $25 to $80 or more. If you’re already wary of costs, racking up several hundred dollars in application fees is not going to help.

Diversity in a college list is a good thing; just don’t get caught up in the idea of reaches, matches and safeties.

I’ve seen it happen plenty of times – a student applies to a school as a safety despite not having any real interest in the school and then ends up having to enroll there due to lack of options or lack of financial resources. Other students apply to a school as a reach simply because the college is ranked highly on US News or Forbes but have no idea if they can afford the school or if the school is even a good fit for them. Schools should not be on your list simply because you think you will be admitted. Rather a school should be on your list because it fits your needs academically, socially and financially. Some schools will be harder to get into than others, but any school you apply to should be a school you love.

Ultimately, there will always be circumstances outside of your control so make peace with that idea and control what you can: which colleges you apply to and how sincere and genuine your interest is. You may not get in everywhere you apply, but if you conduct your college search the right way, you will get into and enroll at a college you love.

If you would like some assistance with your college search, contact me today for a free 60-minute consultation.

Here’s what other families like yours are saying about how Dobler College Consulting made a difference for them.


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