Are You Getting a Fair Shake When Applying to College?

It’s hard enough to get into college when the playing field is even, but what about when it’s not? This recent article posted in the New York Times Choice Blog, details how over 25% of students accepted to University of Illinois from 2005 to 2009 were admitted due to the intervention of politicians and major donors.

In one example, "Rep. Angelo 'Skip' Saviano, a veteran lawmaker with influential friends in both parties, asked U. of I.’s lobbyists to check on the application of a relative of then-local Teamsters leader Robert Hogan, whose union had donated more than $12,000 to Saviano’s election campaigns in the decade before the admissions request." Thankfully, the secret admissions process has been done away with, and the university is attempting to weed out corruption moving forward.

More students getting deferred from colleges

Are you still waiting for a final answer on your early admissions application?

According to this article, the National Association of College Admission Counseling reported that 72 percent of colleges with early action options experienced an increase in applications for fall 2010, with only 38 percent reporting an increase in acceptances. As a result of the increased number of early admission applications, the rate of deferral keeps increasing.

Students who are deferred undergo an uncomfortable state of limbo, and many ask if there is anything they can do to increase their chances of acceptance. Bob Sweeney, the longtime coordinator of guidance counseling at Mamaroneck High School, suggests students restate their interest in the school: “Colleges do look closely at perceived interest,” he said. “They don’t want to — for lack of a better word — waste their acceptance on students who have no interest in going there.” Since colleges prefer to give a spot to a student who they are sure will take it, a commitment letter showing your continued dedication to the school may be the only way to distinguish yourself from the pool of other deferred applicants.

Deciding to Take the ACT or the SAT

Which test will you take?

At some point in their high school careers, students usually consider which standardized test to take. Depending on which part of the United States you live in, one may be more popular than the other, but since they are both accepted by colleges, it is a good idea to take each test at least once to see if you have more of a natural gift with one or the other.

This recent article gives a good overview of the ACT including reasons to take the test. And if you are looking for additional services, the ACT may be worth investigating: "ACT Assessment provides a comprehensive package of educational assessment and career planning services for college-bound students at a modest fee that is lower than the fee for the competing admission test."

College Admissions Campus Visits Around the Corner

Have you started planning your college visits?

For those of you who are juniors and are beginning to think about your college lists and which schools to visit, be sure to prepare ahead to make the most of your visits. In addition to researching the school, and your own interests, it’s important to make a list of questions to ask. Check out this article for helpful ideas.

While information sessions can give you lots of useful information, they are usually not tailored to your particular priorities. As college admissions expert Cristiana Quinn puts it, “Most families will sit obediently in information sessions soaking up what is said, but few will raise their hands and ask the tough questions.” To that end, you can note down what is important to you, so that you can pay special attention to how each college addresses those issues.

The Season of Senior Slump Begins

You may want to avoid this type of behavior.

As we near spring, and the pressures of the college admission process relents, seniors may finally find themselves starting to relax, but how far should they let their responsibilities slide? In a recently posted New York Times Choice blog, Martha Merrill, dean of admission and financial aid at Connecticut College, warns students not to enter a senior slump: "We expect the students we admit will continue to demonstrate the traits that distinguished them during the admission process — throughout senior year and during the years spent on our campus. If you can’t maintain that level of success during your senior year, you cast doubt on your ability to succeed in college."

Not only will lowered performance raise red flags among admissions officers, but offers of acceptance could also be revoked, and the dean herself has admitted to revoking several over her years with the university. While this can sound a bit harsh, especially to parents who see how hard their kids have been working, this is more about wanting students to make a successful transition to college, rather than encouraging students to maintain high levels of stress. As Merrill puts it, "With applications in, seniors should take time to savor their final months of high school and enjoy family and friends. But they should also be using this important time in their lives to practice balancing academics with other commitments, and not fall victim to the "senior slack.""

College Entrance Exam Scores Falsified by Claremont McKenna

We've heard about students cheating to increase their scores, but colleges?

Even if students don’t pay that much attention to college rankings, the colleges themselves seem to obsess over them. Especially problematic are colleges that crave to the pressure, using any means necessary to increase ratings. According to this article in the Sentinel Tribune, Claremont McKenna’s senior administrator recently resigned after admitting he falsified college entrance exam scores for years to inflate rankings.

Other colleges spend billions on financial aid in order to entice students with high scores to attend their school or offer bonuses to presidents who increase their school’s rating. Baylor University went as far as to pay students who had already been accepted to retake the SAT exam in order to increase average scores.

Unfortunately, when colleges focus only on increasing their ratings, they are not doing what’s best for students. Some of the consequences include, “recruiting as many students as they can to apply, even if they're not likely to be a good fit, just to boost their selectivity numbers. And they've showered financial aid on high-achieving, and often wealthy, kids with high SAT scores.”

Don’t Share the Joy of That College Acceptance Letter Just Yet

The application process is stressful enough without having to deal with erroneous admissions information.

No matter what decision you receive from a particular college, you may want to keep those high or low feelings a bit contained for the first 24 hours. After all, while technology has changed the landscape of how students are notified, it is far from glitch free.

This article in the New York Times reveals one recent experience in which students received quite a shock when they realized that the acceptance message they received from Vassar was quickly turned into a rejection letter. One student from Somers High School in Westchester County who received the false acceptance, said in an e-mail, “My mom called, like, my entire family. It was just a big letdown.”

While definitely an undesirable experience, it’s always nice to see the silver lining as Kareen Troussard, a student in Paris, was able to do. In an e-mail she alluded to the gaffe saving her from making a big mistake attending the school:  “I want to major in computer science, and Vassar doesn’t even know how to use a computer on the biggest day of our lives.”