Scary Stories from the College Admissions Department

College admissions departments will be under lots of pressure in the coming months. Early decision deadlines have already passed, and the need for a qualified, well-rounded, and unique student body has admission reps scouring every single application for the “it” factor. Or so you’re led to believe.

college admissionsHave you seen this article from the Daily Beast? Though it was first published in January of 2009, I often talk to parents & students about “Dirty Secrets of College Admissions”. Because so many people spend countless hours putting together the best application they can, it’s important to know that sometimes, if you’re not admitted, it’s not because of anything you did or didn’t do.

Let me give you a example.

“…if my favorite sports team was in a slump, it affected who made the cut. If the [Pittsburgh] Steelers lost a game and I read your file the next morning, chances were you weren’t getting in. Where I could have been nice, I just didn’t go out of my way — I was a lot less charitable. Those are things that you, the applicant, have no control over. Which makes it all the more funny — the frenzy that parents and students work themselves into around getting in.” -Current admissions officer, state university in the Northeast

And that’s not the only example of how something arbitrary can dictate a very real and important decision in a student’s life. Though much of the article is hard hitting tough love, there are a few pieces of advice to heed in case the admissions representative is feeling reasonable that day:

  1. Don’t send in every newspaper clipping of your son on the high school honor role. That’s redundant if he has submitted his transcript.
  2. Don’t send out several letters of recommendation. Send three or four max. Admissions offices don’t want to see eight. They get the feeling you’re trying to justify something.
  3. If you’re a parent, do not call the admissions officer repeatedly for information or to try to extract information from them. “That’s almost always an automatic rejection,” says an admissions officer from an Ivy League university.
  4. Don’t send poetry. That rarely works. A high school senior is probably not Shakespeare, so poetry is not going to help.

What is your reaction to this article? Does it make you feel anxious about applying to a college or are you embracing the fact that some things are just out of your control?

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