From The Mouths of College Admission Deans

From The Mouths of College Admission Deans

Brendan Barnard wrote a three-part series where he asked admission leaders to focus on what they wanted students and families to know about applying to college next year. The common theme in their responses was, “WE GET IT!” They know that there has been major disruption and that everyone is learning virtually. They know that sports competitions, musical productions, and internships have been canceled. They are aware that many students will not take standardized tests and that grading policies in high schools are in flux. 

A few important insights/quotes for students and parents to take note of:

On transcripts/grading…

Jim Bock, vice president and dean of admissions at Swarthmore College agrees, saying, “there will be a big asterisk on spring 2020 transcripts for all students and colleges and universities are aware and understanding of that fact.” He adds, “we will work with college counselors to understand and accept the choices individual schools and districts make during these challenging times.

On activities/summer…

Often, students and parents mistakenly believe that they need to build a long list of activities and involvement in the name of admission to college. “More, more, more” is their mantra as they try to do—and be—everything to stand out in the application process. In some communities, daily schedules for high school students become unsustainable, as families rush from one commitment to another—usually leading to sleep-deprived, burnt-out young people (and parents). In other communities, students are working long hours at a job or caring for a younger sibling, and therefore worry that their college application will lack what they perceive as “traditional” extracurricular involvement. This resume building approach to admission is flawed and the current crisis has forced us all to slow down and look critically at what we do. Juan Espinoza, associate vice provost and director of admissions at Virginia Tech, says, “We recognize that organized extracurricular activities will be impossible, but we are impressed, by how students are finding ways to give back to their communities.”

Jim Bock, vice president and dean of admissions at Swarthmore College tells students, “many of you may have a little more time on your hands these days. Rest. Read. Reassess. Ask yourself, ‘Why do I pursue this activity or that program?’” He adds, “many students believe we count activities and that more is better. What we seek is commitment to a few activities, though there is no formula for a successful application.” He advises, “pursue what you want, and find the college that matches, and you will be much more satisfied in the end. You may also have less choice as you care for siblings and families, and there may not be the ability to work. We value all commitments.” Bock encourages students to “think about what has motivated you to do what you do? Would you do it all the same? Why are you doing it? When things return to the new normal (whenever that happens) how do you envision engaging with and impacting your family, your faith community, your school, or your larger community?” He says, “regardless, take care of yourself first and take it slow. There is time for reflection.” 

Some students had grand plans for the summer. Maybe they had been looking forward to being a camp counselor or participating in an internship. Perhaps they were eager to volunteer or work a steady job. Research, travel, spending time with a relative—many summer experiences have been, or likely will be, closed down by the pandemic. Applicants fear that dashed plans will ruin their college dreams. Heath Einstein, dean of admission at Texas Christian University suggests looking at it in a different way. He says, “summer presents an opportunity to be productive even if in different ways. For example, a student might not be able to secure a coveted internship, but they could still plant a garden in their yard or design a smartphone app or read books by authors from marginalized communities.” 

Mary Wagner, assistant vice president for enrollment management at the University of South Carolina explains that “thirst for learning and knowledge is always valuable and appreciated by the admissions committee.” She tells students that given that they are operating in a non-traditional classroom this spring, “consider other opportunities to pursue learning beyond the classroom over the summer,” adding, “you’re probably already doing something that could be considered an internship or research project of sorts. Perhaps you’ve taken on new responsibilities in your home or family. Is there a new skill that you are trying to learn online? Are you working toward a finished project or artifact that can show off what you’ve learned? These can be applied, creative, or reflective in nature. We find that students are pretty imaginative on this front and are self-taught in many areas.” 

Swarthmore’s Bock also points out that, “self-care is critical, and if you are unable to care for yourself, it will be difficult to care for others.” He encourages students to give themselves permission to prioritize their own health in the same way one might put their own oxygen mask on first during an emergency in flight. He says, “finding a way to give back to your team, club, faith community, family will come with time. Taking care of yourself in this crisis is a way to help others. It will take time, but there will be ways for you to share and care for others beyond your computer screen and devices.” 

On essays…

Temple’s Abbott, says, “I would advise to resist against writing about something that has consumed all of us around the world. Know in advance that colleges will fully recognize the impact of what COVID-19 had on your high school experience. Don’t let this one public health crisis (as dramatic as it was!) define you.” 

Source (three linked here). 

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April Monthly Action Plan – By Grade

April Monthly Action Plan – By Grade

Number one on the action plan this month is everyone’s health and wellness (and this amazing video by students at Berklee College of Music)!

We are available at your convenience to talk about testing timeline changes or anything else you might want to discuss. We are monitoring how changes may impact the upcoming application process and will be posting anything significant on the blog. Please let us know if you have any questions about researching and connecting with schools online, taking virtual tours, or thinking about alternate summer options if you were planning on attending an on-campus or travel program. Happy to answer questions via email (contact form)!

Seniors:

  • Waitlisted at your top choice school? Read our waitlist guidance, and reach out if you’d like us to help you craft your WL letter and a personalized waitlist strategy.
  • May 1 is the national decision day. However, many schools have pushed their deposit deadlines much later. You can find a comprehensive list here via ACCEPT Group.
  • If you are having trouble deciding where to deposit because you have not been able to visit campuses, attend admitted student events, or talk to current students, please reach out as we have resources to share (including student contacts) that might help!

Juniors:

  • Now is a good time for a social media audit. Connecting with colleges on social is a way to learn about them and it demonstrates interest. Before you tweet to any of your top schools or like them on FB, follow them on Instagram, etc., please make sure your accounts put you in the best light. If you have any questions, ask us!
  • It is also an excellent time to determine who you will ask for your two core teacher letters of recommendation.
  • If you find that you have some extra time on your hands, consider:
      • Creating a digital portfolio (LinkedIn, SoundCloud, personal website, and/or blog).
      • Opening a Common App account and filling out the base data.
      • Contacting your regional reps and asking them for suggestions on how to learn more about their school/programs from afar.
      • Contacting current students as part of your extended research/outreach (see attached).
      • Working on essays!

Sophomores & Freshmen

  • Now is a good time for a social media audit. Connecting with colleges on social is a way to learn about them and it demonstrates interest. Before you tweet to any of your top schools or like them on FB, follow them on Instagram, etc., please make sure your accounts put you in the best light. If you have any questions, ask us!
  • It is helpful to understand how colleges view and define leadership! It is more than being the President of a club or the Captain of a sports team—these are just titles. Please read the PDF here to learn more.
  • Start a story journal. From big life events to small everyday situations, stories from your life drive your college application essays. If you start jotting them down now, as they happen or as you remember them, you will have a much easier time next spring when you start brainstorming to write your personal statement. No story is too big or too small!

 

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February Action Plan – By Grade

February Action Plan – By Grade

Seniors:

  • Once your applications have been submitted, be sure to track the status of each app online to ensure all of your application materials were received. Follow up with your school counselor ASAP if a college is missing your transcript or a letter of recommendation. Check your junk email folder regularly (daily), so you do not miss correspondence from colleges.
  • Interviews! Sign up for interviews for all of your RD schools as soon as possible (where available/and if still open), if you have not done so already.
  • For RD schools, consider writing interest letters to go out early this month—no later. If you have defer letters/essays that need to go out, get those out ASAP, too.

Juniors:

  • Keep prepping for standardized tests (ACT, SAT, SAT Subject tests) and working hard in all of your classes; your grades this year are very important.
  • Do you know what major(s) you will mark on your application? Do you have a clearly defined academic interest or set of interests for your college apps? This is a critical part of your application that should be determined now.
  • Continue working on your resume. Some summer programs, internships, and interviewers may ask for this, so it’s useful to have it handy.
  • Next summer is a wonderful opportunity to do something really meaningful, perhaps even fun, that will help you tell your story for college! Get those plans in place now.
  • Meet with your school counselor about your preliminary college list and go over your goals and plans for college visits.
  • Speaking of college visits: Are you going to sit in on a class? Do you want to meet with someone in your intended department of interest (major, minor, etc.), or a current student? Not all schools offer formal pathways to these opportunities, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make them happen; this all falls under what I call ‘extended research/outreach’ and it can be highly beneficial. **After visits, even if you only attend a general info session and take a tour, please send your regional rep and any admission representatives you met a follow-up/thank you email** This opens a line of communication with someone at the school, and demonstrates interest. I also recommend keeping a document with any notes and observations from your visits. These notes will come in handy when writing supplemental essays and/or when writing a deferral letter, or letters of interest.
  • Take a college tour via CampusReel. Visiting campus in person is great, but you won’t be able to tour all of the schools on your initial list. Plus, formal campus tours can be a bit limiting! CampusReel is one of my favorite ways to get a real insider look at colleges.
  • Some colleges open up their on-campus interviews this spring. If you plan to interview on an upcoming visit, please prepare. You should always prepare for interviews, even if a school states they are not evaluative.
  • Start to think about your senior year schedule. Do you know what you will be taking? Your senior classes should be the most challenging of your four years.

Sophomores and Freshmen:

  • An impressive academic record is the most important admissions factor at most colleges. Work on creating smart study habits this year.
  • Will you be taking SAT Subject Tests this spring or starting your SAT or ACT prep this spring/summer? Begin to decide on a testing schedule and plan for how you will prepare for these exams.
  • Many 2019 summer program applications are now open. Please begin thinking about your plans for summer 2019 and work on applications if needed.
  • Start to think about next year’s course schedule. Do you know what you will be taking? Your classes next year should be more challenging than this year.
  • Now is the time to build your academic profile for college, and this means pursuing what interests you academically and intellectually outside of your classes. Have you gotten more involved with any academic extracurricular activities? Have you thought about what you might want to major in? Think about ideas for new and different activities or how to get more involved in your favorite activity (academic and non-academic); exploration now will help you begin determining what you might want to study in college. A great place to start exploring your academic interests is Khan Academy: https://www.khanacademy.org.
  • One way that your “story” is conveyed in your app is through your resume. Keep working on yours this month.
Know A Girl Who Wants To Change The World?

Know A Girl Who Wants To Change The World?

The HERlead Fellowship is designed to equip young women with the leadership skills they need to effect global progress, invest in their communities – to date, more than 246 social impact projects received funding through HERlead Fellowship Grants – and continue their journeys as the next generation of leaders.  Here’s how it works:

WHAT IT IS:
A fellowship to provide leadership training to young women, empowering them to become the next generation of global trailblazers.

WHY PARTICIPATE:
Learn from inspiring women leaders from around the world and participate in Vital Voices’ signature leadership model training program. Attend the HERlead Leadership Forum and become eligible to win a HERlead Grant to put your ideas into action.

WHO SHOULD APPLY:
Girls in the 10th or 11th grade at a high school in the United States, Puerto Rico or Canada.

DATES & DEADLINES:
The HERlead Fellowship Application is now open and will close Wednesday, February 5th, 2020. The 2020 Leadership Forum will take place on June 22-25, 2020 in New York City.

DETAILS:
We are searching the country for young women leaders who are committed to reshaping the world and making positive and sustainable change. We will select 30 applicants to be the 2020 Fellows. If you are selected, you will join an elite group of rising stars, where you will be given the skills, tools and training needed to realize your full leadership potential. All costs to attend the HERlead Leadership Forum are covered by the fellowship (including transportation, accommodation, and meals) so there are no costs to the Fellow.

AS A HERLEAD FELLOW, YOU WILL:
• Participate in the HERlead Leadership Forum, a four-day leadership training program in New York City, from June 22-25, 2020.
• Obtain skills and networks to take on leadership roles in your schools and companies.
• Be mentored by global women leaders who are part of the Vital Voices Global Leadership Network, as well as AnnTaylor Retail Inc. Representatives.

For more information, an Overview of the Program, a Sample Application, Grant Information and HERlead Social Media Tips, see the HERlead TOOL KIT.

After completing the leadership training program, you will return to your community and have the opportunity to use what you learned at the Forum to create a project that will effect change. You are also eligible to receive a HERlead Grant that will further help you turn your ideas into action.

To be considered, you must demonstrate a strong commitment to leadership and potential for creating innovative solutions to problems in your community. You must have a proven track record in your academic work and interest in extracurricular activities. Are you up for the challenge?

For questions about the application, please see APPLICATION FAQS