Potential Landmines in the Admission Process (Part Two)

Written by Nell McCormack Abom, Host Smart Talk TV | Feb 23, 2010 2:14 AM

In Jean’s case, when the admission officers asked, “If we admit her, what do we get,” nothing jumped out at them. They saw a good student with solid involvement outside of the classroom who didn’t present a compelling reason to be admitted into the class. She had failed to project herself as a potential contributor to the athletic program or make a convincing statement about the relevance of her leadership.

What’s worse, because she had not visited the school’s campus, admission officers could find no evidence of her interest in their school when they asked, “What is the likelihood that she will come?” Uncertain of her level of interest and likely contributions, it is reasonable to assume that the next question of Jean, also a potential financial aid candidate, was, “Is this someone in whom we are prepared to make a financial investment?”

It wasn’t long before Jean and her parents began to see the logic of the decision-making process at the selective schools to which she was applying. They could now rationalize the EA decision. More importantly, the despair that had hovered over the start of the conversation had given way to an excited sense of possibility as Jean began to develop a new “To Do” list. Even at this time of the year, Jean realized that it is not too late to get on the radar screens of the schools to which she had applied. Specifically, she saw the need to eliminate the perception that her interest in a given school is random while conveying a sense of the passion and talent within her that would set her apart from the rest of the competition.

Jean made immediate plans to visit the campuses of the “high priority” schools on her list and to attempt to introduce herself to the person(s) responsible for recruiting in her region. Moreover, she is making sure they have her most recent grades as well as documentation of a couple of honors that have come her way since she submitted her applications. She also took heart in the possibility that she could still contact the coaches at some of the smaller colleges on her list and make sure they got the tapes of her athletic performance.

I admire Jean for her response to the situation. Rather than feeling that all is lost with regard to her college future, she is taking steps to affect the outcomes. Realizing that applying to college is a process and not an event, she is asserting herself.  In doing so, she will eliminate the randomness that might otherwise be associated with her application.

Will this new-found self-advocacy assure Jean admission to her favorite schools? Not necessarily. It will, however, give her the chance to compete that she deserves. At the very least, the schools on her list now have reason to pause in considering her possible contributions to the communities they are building. Now, they will have a better idea of what they get should they admit Jean—and they’ll have more confidence that hers is a serious interest that could result in her enrollment if accepted. And, if they value her for what she has to offer, they will be more likely to invest in her with financial aid and/or scholarships.

Be honest with yourself about the nature of the competition as you apply for admission and take charge of the process. Don’t assume that because your credentials might match those on the academic profiles of the colleges to which you are applying that you admission is assured. Rather, reach out (appropriately) to decision-makers (admission officers) at the schools that are important to you and be sure to tell your story. Give the admission officers every reason to want to include you in the communities they are building as they admit their entering classes!

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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