College Application Help Line Available

We all need a little help sometimes.

This is a big week in the college application process. Successful early applicants may be able to say goodbye to the process for now, while deferred and rejected applicants may have lots of questions about what happens next. If you're still applying regular decision, you're probably working hard to finish those essays before the January 1 deadline so that you can actually enjoy some of your holiday break. Wherever you are in the process, The New York Times Choice Blog has made a live college application help line available this week.

Marie Bigham, a former college admissions officer and college counselor at Greenhill School in Texas, will be answering questions Wednesday from 8 to 9 p.m. Eastern time. For those who won't be able to tune in, a transcript of the session will be posted on The Choice Thursday morning.



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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.

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Stay Positive Even if you Don't Get Accepted to Your Top Choices

Could University of Maryland turn out to be the college for you?

Even if the first round of early applications didn’t go as planned, you may still be feeling optimistic about the rest of your applications. But what happens if you have more rejections to look forward too? In this article by University of Maryland student Eric Harris, he describes his less than desired experience with the college application process.

While he went through his share of emotional ups and (mostly) downs, the story highlights how things really can work out for the best. Harris writes, “I LOVE my school! Great friends, exceptional faculty, competitive sports teams, and the fun of leading campus tours to future Terps are my rewards for going with an open mind to a school that was not my first choice.” Judging by his incredible college experience and positive attitude, he found the perfect place for him to spend his college years, even if it was not at the top of his list.

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Does Commitment (to a college) Thrill Or Chill You?

Are you ready to commit?

As you anxiously await to hear back from colleges, you might still be daydreaming about your top choice. Perhaps you have gotten deferred from your early decision option, or you made a late decision on which college you really want to attend. Either way, wouldn’t it be wonderful to channel that energy into something tangible that could actually increase your chances of getting in?

Experts suggest that writing a Commitment Letter will not only help reduce your stress but might also be just what the college needs to tip the balance in your favor.

As the end of February nears and March approaches, college admissions officers are at their desks struggling to determine how many students will accept their offers. After all, they don't want to accept students that are not likely going to actually attend. A Commitment Letter lets the college know that you are passionate about enrolling, and that if admitted, you would definitely accept the offer. This love letter should demonstrate your enthusiasm for the school and important updates on your academic and extracurricular life. There's no need to repeat what you've already told them - this should be new info, along with the heartfelt expression of hope that you'll be accepted. Don’t you want your favorite school to know that you’re still working hard on your AP courses, and have now become president of the chess team, or whatever else you might be up to these days - and that all the while you’re dreaming of the day when you can pack up your things, leave home, and finally be on their campus?

Now is the time to write this one last college essay, and after this one, you really can relax knowing you’ve done all you can to get into your dream college. But beware not to be unfaithful. Committing to a school and not attending can reflect negatively on your high school, affecting future students’ chances. Also, colleges sometimes share notes on applicants, and if they realize that they have all gotten the same Commitment Letter, it might hurt you. No one wants a player.

Try to get your Commitment Letter out before the end of February.