It’s decision time for thousands of high school seniors who have until May 1 to lock in on where they will attend college this fall. And that means lots of questions.
I was online Thursday afternoon to answer some of these questions, along with Katherine Cohen of IvyWise, an admissions counseling company based in Manhattan, and ApplyWise, an admissions guidance Web site.
I encourage you to read the full transcript, but here are a few of the things we discussed:
Once accepted by a few colleges, any insight on things to consider when making the decision on which to attend?
Katherine Cohen: Research! And lots of it! You should start today and spend significant time researching each of the schools to which you were accepted. Consider factors such as academic programs, curriculum, extracurricular offerings, campus life, internship opportunities, even location and climate. If you have not yet visited campus, you should do so. Read the campus newspaper and try to speak with current students to get a feel for the campus environment. With enough research, you should be able to determine which school is your top choice among the acceptances.
Is the increase in applications due to more kids applying, or is each individual student applying to more schools? When I applied (late 1990s), my school required handwritten application and essays. :/
Katherine Cohen: I wonder if one of those schools was Brown? Brown used to require handwritten essays and their admit rate dipped to just 8.7% this year. Yes, students are applying to more schools and the Common Application makes it easier for them to apply. Five years ago, our students were applying to 6-8 schools on average and now we advise them to apply to 10-12. But we’ve heard of students applying to more than 30!
How are admissions offices handling all of these extra applications? Are they still giving each a proper read?
Katherine Cohen: They are giving each a proper read and the workload has increased for some of these admissions officers. I know that some schools, such as Princeton, have hired outside readers to help with the reading and evaluating.
You cannot put the same effort into 25 (or more) applications that you can into a much smaller number and show genuine interest in the school/program and why the unique characteristics of that school/program are a good fit for you.
Katherine Cohen: Totally, 100% agree. Great comment. We advise our students to apply to 10-12 colleges and to really make sure that every single one of those colleges is a great fit for that student. The list is broken down into some reaches, some targets, and some likelies. But ultimately, the student should feel some pang of disappointment if they don’t get into any one of those schools. Ideally they should all be top choices that the student knows well.
What kind of student should not go to college?
Jenna Johnson: Anyone who has ever vodka eyeballed themselves should be barred from every college campus in America for being an idiot. I think this question should be added to the Common App.
Why do colleges even have waitlists — especially when those lists stretch on and on with thousands of names. Is this just a nicer way of rejecting students?
Katherine Cohen: Schools use the waitlist to help manage their yield — the number of accepted students who ultimately go on to enroll in that particular school. In fact, more and more students are getting accepted off the waitlist. The acceptance rate overall from waitlists was 34% last year, as opposed to 20% in 2005. Schools need to have enough diverse applicants from which to choose, so if their soccer goalie says no, they have a few more soccer goalies on the waitlist and they can still build a diverse class. But some schools put a ridiculous number of students on their waitlist and I don’t agree with that policy.
Once waitlisted, a senior has to resell themselves to their top choice schools by sending a letter or e-mail. Dr. Cohen said that that letter is binding, so only send to the one top choice school. First, how is that binding? And second — isn’t that unfair to the senior who is completely in the dark about what the college is looking for?
Katherine Cohen: Students can write multiple letters, but they can’t tell multiple schools that each school is their first choice and that they will definitely attend if admitted from the waitlist. They can only write that statement to one school. They can certainly write all the schools that they have been waitlisted at and are still interested in. But they would just say in that letter that the school remains one of their top choices. They can write the same type of letter updating the school on what they are doing, how they would make an impact on campus, etc. But they can only say to one school that they would definitely attend if they were admitted because the schools are going to take the student at his or her word. Also, we advise students that if you’re not seriously interested in attending one of the schools you’ve been waitlisted at, then write that school and ask to be removed from the waitlist so the spot can go to someone else.
S ome firms recruit solely from pre-selected universities, but how does that arrangement even happen? Do firms interact with those universities in such a way that they know what they are getting when they hire?
Jenna Johnson: Well, quite often such decisions are driven by where the bosses went to school! But in many cases, recruiters are looking to find as many well-qualified applicants as possible by visiting as few schools as possible. That’s especially true right now in an economy where many staffers have more responsibilities back at the office and there’s less money to travel.
So, recruiters often zero in on the largest and highest-ranked programs in their fields. Last fall the WSJ did a college ranking based on recruiter favorites — and huge state schools ranked much higher on the list than small liberal arts ones. I have heard that in many states, a number of small- and medium-sized campuses will band together for job fairs so they can attract more recruiters.
Note from Jenna: Some of these questions and answers have been lightly edited for length and typos.
Again, that’s just a few of the questions — you can read more in the full transcript. And next Thursday I will be chatting about what makes for the best dining halls and rec centers, so mark it on your calendar.