Potential Landmines in the Admission Process (Part One)

Written by Nell McCormack Abom, Host Smart Talk TV | Feb 16, 2010 4:41 PM

These were all good questions. While Jean possesses the academic credentials to be competitive for admission at any college or university in the country, the deferral letter had left her wondering what it would take to get in and had she done all she could do. I couldn’t find fault with the schools she had chosen nor the process she had followed in choosing them. On the surface, they all made sense for her—they were good fits. Digging deeper, however, I was able to uncover potential landmines or factors that might have influenced the outcome of her EA application. If not addressed, they would certainly have an impact on the outcomes of her other applications.

First, although Jean and her parents had been evaluating college options since her 9th grade year, she hadn’t visited any of the campuses in the last eighteen months. More specifically, she had never formally visited the school to which she applied EA. Despite her passion for the place, its admission officers had no way of knowing about her interest.

Second, she had not sufficiently established her “hook”—the credential that might set her apart from her peers in a tight competition. A student leader and two-sport athlete with aspirations for playing in college, Jean had not made contact with college athletic recruiters in her sports.

Finally, Jean had indicated on her application for admission that she would be a candidate for financial aid—a factor that could complicate things even at an institution that is reputedly “need blind” in the admission process.

As I talked with Jean, I wanted her to understand how the EA university might have reacted to her application. While she is a great candidate academically, admission officers at the schools she is considering can afford to look for more as she competed with thousands of others who looked just like her. In making its decisions, the admission committee is rarely asking: “Is she good enough?” Rather it was making a series of value judgments: “Who among these great candidates do we value most?  What does this candidate bring us as we attempt to build a new community?”  

In my next posting, I will reveal the steps Jean took to make sure these questions were adequately addressed in her application.

Peter Van Buskirk is an author, consultant, speaker and creator of the Best College Fit™ Resources. Visit to learn more about Peter and his student-centered approach to college planning.

Published in Life After 12th Grade

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