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What are some things you wish you learned about college/college admission process?


Replies to: What are some things you wish you learned about college/college admission process?

  • LonghaulLonghaul Registered User Posts: 2,620 Senior Member
    Finances play a role.

    Very few schools are need blind.
  • JuvenisJuvenis Registered User Posts: 853 Member
    Based on my personal observations, numbers play the biggest role in universities than you think. People here say you need the numbers as a threshold for top U's, but what I didn't know whas how high those thresholds were. When they say it's in your best interest to have test scores at least in the 75th percentile and a class rank of at least top 5%, they're not kidding.

    I heard that if you want colleges to see you more as a person and put more weight into the subjective parts of your application (i.e. your essays), then try LAC's. Not entirely sure if stats are more downplayed in LAC's than universities, but that's the consensus I've received so far.

    I sympathize with those who get stumped on the "Why __" essay, especially those who can't visit. You're a senior who, chances are, doesn't know what to study yet. In that case, ask yourself: what classes did you do particularly well in? More importantly, did you like those classes? Are your recs gonna be coming from those teachers? Did I do any EC's that I liked that points to some direction? Once you've got a list of that covered, research the university. Say you did well in math and at least have an inkling of a liking to the subject. Research the course catalog of the school for math classes and see how extensive they are and how interesting they might seem. Also, research the math department of the college. What opportunities, quirks, traditions, programs do they offer? And I say quirks/traditions because places like Haverford, for example, put on a comedy play every year by a hilarious and famous ancient Roman playwright for students taking a certain Classics class. Boom. There's a unique quality that separates the college from the rest. All I had to do was find out that I liked and did well in Latin, consider being a classics major, researching the classics department, and stumble upon this bit of information.

    Speaking of finding out what you might like to study, the people who actually DO know what they want usually stand out (or at least have a clearer image of what they want). Why do they stand out? Because knowing what you want tailors itself into a unique application. Your application takes on a theme, an interest in a field, supported by your EC's, awards, grades, recs, etc. THAT type of application is much more interesting than just a bunch of leadership positions from various clubs put together. Out of all the people in my class who applied to ivies and top 5 LAC's, the ones that got decent results were the ones who had clear interests (e.g. two nationally-ranked debaters who excelled in writing/English and humanities while editing the school newspaper and winning numerous writing awards. One even published 3 books. Another friend is VERY involved in Democratic politics, even interning at a law office and death row. He's involved and head of many clubs that have to do with liberal politics, not to mention won awards in leadership and politics). The others who didn't see such great results (those who, at best, got waitlisted into ONE ivy out of the 6 they applied to) didn't have that advantage, and they are at the top of the class (those guys even have a higher GPA than the one who published 3 books, who by the way got into Princeton and Stanford).

    So why the push to do these EC's and such to prove your passion in a field? Because all those EC's which seem like "extra work" such as interning at a law office are what students at top schools do in their spare time. It's how they define their experience and dare I say fun at HYP etc. To me, all those other non-academic traditions seem supplementary to how the students spend their time. This may seem obvious when reading it, but you'd be surprised at how much this is overlooked when one is name-obsessed and he/she tries to write the "Why Yale" essay using stuff such as the H v Y football game to differentiate Yale from everywhere else.
  • JuniorMintJuniorMint Registered User Posts: 1,491 Senior Member
    I can sympathize with Ivy aspirations. I really can. As crapshooty and prestigewhorish as hitting up all eight of them is, you will probably have the urge to do so.

    My advice is to not waste all your reaches on the Ivies, especially if you are capped in the number of schools you can apply to. In retrospect, those reaches would have been more plausibly used on the Ivy-equivalents.

    For example, I applied to four Ivies but would have much rather applied to Vanderbilt, Northwestern, Emory, and Notre Dame.

    I mean, can the entire Ivy league be a perfect fit for you? I thought the fit was in the name, but that is a terrible frame of mind to be in.

    Best of luck to you all!
  • thelemonisinplaythelemonisinplay Registered User Posts: 494 Member
    @Juvenis Is it a problem if I have high SAT, ACT, subject test scores and a 4.0 GPA but since I go to a very competitive school (it's #1 in the nation, School for the Talented and Gifted) my class rank is not in the top 10%? (I only have 58 people in my class, and I'm ranked #9)
  • PhilovitistPhilovitist Registered User Posts: 2,739 Senior Member
    Stop taking yourself so seriously.
  • PhilovitistPhilovitist Registered User Posts: 2,739 Senior Member
    Oh, here's my real advice:

    Pose. Most of us don't know what we want to do when we grow up. A lot of us have an idea, but aren't certain. But if you have an interest you can write passionately about, even if you aren't sure it's "your" thing, write about it. Do whatever you can to capture the imagination of the reader - make them interested in being part of your story.

    If you can make your life a good story, your application will be more than the sum of its parts.
  • PhilovitistPhilovitist Registered User Posts: 2,739 Senior Member
    One more thing.

    Read books about college admissions. I read The Gatekeepers and Admissions Confidential. They made me understand in intricate detail the sort of people who would be reading my application, and how my application would be evaluated. I cannot understate the impact this knowledge had in the two years I spent focused on getting into a top school.

    If you want to get in, you must have - or at least keep in mind, a plan. This stuff does not just happen, I don't care what MIT's admissions advice webpage tells you.
  • Jdaz95Jdaz95 Registered User Posts: 19 New Member
    Don't sell yourself short:
    I took a look at the average GPA's of people admitted at Pomona and Bowdoin and said I might as well not apply because there's no way I'll get in. I ended up getting into Bowdoin regular decision and getting in off the wait list at Pomona (talk about tough decisions).
  • Time2Time2 Registered User Posts: 708 Member
    1) Visit any college you are serious about attending, you only get an in person impression by being on campus. You can't do that online or by looking at brochures.

    2) Consider (along with your parents) what the college 'budget' will be. More expensive colleges don't necessarily translate into better education or better job opportunities. Look past the PR marketing hype that some colleges engage in.

    3) It is NOT the end of the world if you get turned down at some colleges you apply to. Very selective colleges get far more applications then they have openings. Be realistic.

    4) College rankings are more for their entertainment value or to sell magazines/newspapers then a serious college selection tool.

    5) Don't choose a college just to be with your h.s. friends. You may/may not still be friends 2 yrs from now....then what????

    6) 5 yrs after you graduate, where you went to college will be far less important then how you perform on the job.
  • TonyKTonyK Registered User Posts: 1,134 Senior Member
    Less reaches and more matches.
    Privates can cost less than publics in some cases.
    Know what every public in your state can offer you for scholarships.
    Don't skip college visits...the one you just drove past may have been the best fit for you.
    Take both the SAT and the ACT to improve your chances.
    Use tools like EFC and % Likely To Be Admitted to narrow your choices.
    Be aware of admissions reps visits...we were the only family from our entire county who attended a packed session with a Yale University rep.
    Now is the time to take your best shot. I still wish my son had applied to Harvard instead of one school.
  • tleibmantleibman Registered User Posts: 53 Junior Member
    As a parent, I wish I had thought more about setting up my finances properly to maximize potential FA much earlier. If you read up or get advice, it could save you many thousands of dollars if you do it right. Think about putting as much as possible into retirement accounts as most schools don't count them for FA. Borrow for college and pay back from the retirement accounts just after graduation. Do the "right thing" and save in a college savings account and most colleges will eat it up as fast as possible. You just need to be disciplined and save more in your retirement than you would have otherwise (as much as you would have put into a college savings account). Use a Roth IRA or 401k if possible so you can withdraw the priciple penalty and tax free....anyway, think about doing it right way BEFORE senior year.
  • iloverunningiloverunning Registered User Posts: 82 Junior Member
    If you still have time, take as many advanced classes as possible. Yes, you may suffer from a few low grades here and there (or maybe not), but taking AP exams can really cut the stress out of college. Plus, you can benefit from better study skills.

    I wish I had taken AP Calculus, but I didn't try really hard in middle school. SO, by the time I was in high school, I was already behind. Now, I have to take Calculus in college during my freshman year which is supposedly EXTREMELY tough.
  • Slurpee64Slurpee64 Registered User Posts: 59 Junior Member
    I'm the parent of a HS junior, but what I've learned from the process already is that it is such a crapshoot that you (or your child) should just enjoy high school, take the classes that interest you, do the ECs that are meaningful you, try your best, and find some great match/safety schools to apply to. If you spend four years trying to craft yourself into the perfect HYPSM candidate, and making huge personal sacrifices along the way, you are setting yourself up for disappointment. Do those things because you want to regardless of where you get in, or else don't do them. I'm very proud of my son. His grades could be better, but he's taken a rigorous course load and done some great ECs, all because he wanted to -- not to pad his resume. He will apply to a few reaches which would be a pleasant surprise if he gets in, but we've also found some wonderful 2nd tier schools that seem like great fits. No matter how it ends up, he won't be saying "I did all that just to go to Piddly U?" We're hearing a lot of that from the current seniors!
  • ecology13ecology13 Registered User Posts: 5 New Member
    To apply since AUGUST, when the application becomes availble. Especially people who are applying to a multitude of universities to get the best financial aid options possible (which can potentially be the deciding factor of whether you are going to the college or not, even if admitted ). Senior year is busy if you want to get into top schools and most likely there will not be enough time to apply and finish all the essays supplements and etc's once senior year starts, because it's hard enough to handle all the classes including the extracurriculars. Not to mention scholarships.
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