|By Morgantruce (Morgantruce) on Wednesday, January 15, 2003 - 11:20 pm: Edit|
Here are some observations on college admissions from a slightly different perspective. We have two daughters—one a 2nd year student at Wellesley College and another just recently admitted to Kenyon College. We tended to look at college admissions as a process where we gave a good overall view of our daughters without paying too strict attention to the requirements.
To each college they applied to, they supplied a list of “Recently Read Books”--- believing that a person can be well judged by what s/he reads for pleasure. They wrote lengthy cover letters that described how they prepared for college, why they really wanted to attend college, and what they hoped to gain from the experience. They wrote SEVERAL essays that revealed as much about themselves as about their organizational and writing skills. Rather than use the usual two “teacher recommendation forms” they each had SEVEN people write narrative letters of recommendation—believing that thoughts are more meaningful than checked off boxes on forms.
The unorthodox approach is just beginning…
They filed all their applications in September—figuring that admissions officers do not have much to read at that time of the year and might look favorably at a large application filed so early. From then on, each and every letter from a college was answered promptly and in great detail. You might think that a “form letter” from a department head detailing the merits of his field, or a “form letter” from the Dean of Students, or a “form letter” from a coach are just so many form letters. The people who write these letters certainly do not. Those letters are an OPPORTUNITY for a prospective student to reply in depth---and don’t forget to cc: the admissions office in every case. Answering one's mail is a fair indicator of the type of student the college is looking at.
Neither of our girls used the services of a guidance counselor… and neither of them submitted any grades or class rankings!
Surely by now you have correctly guessed that our girls were home schooled.
But this does not invalidate any of the approaches they used in gaining admission to the top schools of their choice. As a parent—if you are determined to do the research and invest the energy--you can do at least as credible a job for your particular child as most guidance counselors who are physically stretched in having to deal with multitudes of students. Since we are talking about YOUR child, I suspect you will work even harder. The fact that you are even on this website is proof enough.
College admissions committees deal with hundreds of applications that are orchestrated by guidance counselors and submitted by students who come to believe that just meeting the minimal filing requirements are good enough. They may be good enough for a counselor spread too thin, but may not be good enough to make an admissions committee take notice… and you DO want them to take notice! Each student needs to make his/her file shine in a particular way.
Colleges can tell when they have a candidate who is genuinely determined to attend and when there appears to be a whole community standing behind that effort. The fat, well-orchestrated file does this.
One last thought: there are hundreds and hundreds of instituitions of higher learning out there. The numbers themselves are an amazing indication of the level of our civilization. We should insist that our children respect the miracle that each one of these instituitions represents.
|By Anonrs (Anonrs) on Thursday, January 16, 2003 - 03:41 am: Edit|
Morgantruce, I found your post to be very interesting. Congratulations to both of your daughters. I hope that they each enjoy their respective college to the fullest degree!
I have a senior at Kenyon. Our son took the more ~normal route~ in his applications but I do know that Kenyon does invite additional material to be sent in their effort to ~get to know~ their applicants. (BTW, one of the promotional mailings that he received in '98 from Kenyon was a recommended list of reading; so, I have no doubt that your daughter's reading list received some attention.) Also, I recall reading several years ago that Kenyon was ~a bit ahead of the curve~ in terms of being more open to homeschoolers.
I served as my older son's college counselor and I am doing the same for my younger son, currently a hs junior. (There is a narrative somewhere on this board of the bumps in the road to Kenyon --the high school gc not mailing the application on time, etc).
I have a friend who homeschools and I was hoping that you might answer some additional questions about your daughters' experiences.
Did either of your daughters visit and interview at the colleges they applied to? Did they both apply ED? If they applied ED, did they do so because they each sincerely felt that they had found their match or was applying ED part of your strategy? (My older son applied RD in order to compare finaid packages; he had two ~happy first choices~ in Kenyon and Grinnell and made the difficult decision between two great schools). Since your daughters are / were home-schooled, what did you do regarding Standardized testing; SAT? ACT? SAT IIs? (I know that in the past, I don't know current requirements, that many colleges required home-schoolers to submit five SAT IIs).
Any other thoughts that you have being a home-schooler applying to college that I might pass on to my friend?
BTW, in case you haven't come across it already, I have a post that runs down the Freshman dorm options at Kenyon in the *Individual Colleges* section of the board.
Thanks for your feedback.
|By Morgantruce (Morgantruce) on Thursday, January 16, 2003 - 08:39 am: Edit|
Replying to Anonrs questions...
Both girls took the SAT and three SAT II tests.
Older daughter applied ED to Wellesley, and interviewed at Kenyon and Wellesley. She had a terrific time on her Kenyon visit and met with the head of the English Department—a very impressive fellow. She then interviewed off-campus for Wellesley. Wellesley accepted her ED and she is very pleased to be going there (but I know she still has a few special feelings for Kenyon.) Younger daughter applied ED to Kenyon, interviewed there, was accepted, and that was that.
|By Patience on Thursday, January 16, 2003 - 12:13 pm: Edit|
I think that the approach you counseled your daughters to take was highly appropriate for them as homeschooled applicants. I also think that the colleges they chose to apply to were very likely to be receptive to this type of approach, and I'm sure that your advance research told you this. For colleges that state in their materials that they welcome supplementary information beyond the application form, it's an opportunity for the right student to take advantage of, in any case.
For traditionally schooled applicants, it would probably not be a good idea for very many of them to eschew the traditional application format in favor of what your daughters did, however. While the occasional traditional applicant who "pitches" him or herself to colleges in a different/unique format may be successful in getting the desired attention leading to an acceptance, assuming they are qualified, it wouldn't take many applicants doing the same thing to cause problems for admissions offices.
This getting-into-college business is clearly all about "fit," above all else, and it's clear that you and your daughters did your research and found an admission strategy to compatible schools that worked for their particular situations.
I also know that many parents, including myself, agree with you on the role parents can play as counselors to their children. It only takes having the time to do the research in order to become well informed, and it's certainly true that most parents know their children far better than a counselor would--particularly a counselor who is hired for the job and who doesn't even know the student in the context of school.
|By Morgantruce (Morgantruce) on Thursday, January 16, 2003 - 03:02 pm: Edit|
I would like to add to my remarks at the top of this topic page.
I do NOT wish to heap any abuse on already overworked guidance counselors. Most of them have multiple layers of important duties beyond just getting senior students placed into colleges. Many counselors at public and private high schools are given the time, tools, and training to give the best possible advice to students bound for the best colleges. And certainly there exist private counselors working at the top of their professional field—as are found on this website. A parent attempting to counsel a child is taking on a large do-it-yourself project that has a very steep learning curve and possibly dire results. Parental familiarity with the student may not always be the bonus it is held out to be. It is up to the parent to determine what level of service is being offered, and what all the reasonable alternatives are.
I am in agreement with everything that Patience writes, and will readily admit that at least one school on each of our daughter’s lists was not at all open to the notions of unchecked boxes, extra essays, or unique formats. These schools only made it to “the list” because we did happen to not pick up on that flavor during the selection process. We allowed for this type of miscasting by making our lists a bit longer than usually necessary (ten and six schools rather than the smaller number a top-notch advisor would whittle down to.) Every single admissions counselor we spoke with emphasized “fit” so often that we began to think we were shopping for shoes! Fortunately for colleges and students, there are many sizes of shoes and feet.
|By Dadster on Thursday, January 16, 2003 - 10:00 pm: Edit|
Great story, Morgantruce, and congrats to your daughters. While the approach you took was unique, I think it highlights the importance of parental involvement and guidance. Parent who are clueless, or who stay uninvolved for other reasons, are doing their kids a disservice in an area that will shape their kids' lives. Good luck to your daughters!
|By Quarky (Quarky) on Wednesday, June 04, 2003 - 10:23 pm: Edit|
|By Anonrs (Anonrs) on Tuesday, July 08, 2003 - 03:33 am: Edit|
Morgantruce, it's only about seven weeks until your daughter heads off to Kenyon. Is she getting excited?
Graduation was very bittersweet; the four years just flew by. I will really miss Parents Weekend in Gambier. (sigh)
|By Morgantruce (Morgantruce) on Tuesday, July 08, 2003 - 07:35 am: Edit|
She's too tired to be excited. She's been carrying out groceries in a supermarket eight hours a day--rain, sleet, snow, and now heat. If she's excited about college, it must be happening during the 45 minutes from the time she walks in the door until she is sound asleep.
She did get the McBride dorm she requested... and a room mate from Phoenix. She is certainly looking forward to being around a crowd of new faces.
Congratulations on your son's graduation. Four years does go by when it's pleasant. Maybe Kenyon has a "support group" for parents suffering the anxiety of separation from the college. I'm sure it's a very real feeling---nearly equal to your son's.
|By Anonrs (Anonrs) on Tuesday, July 08, 2003 - 01:11 pm: Edit|
McBride will be nice for your daughter. She'll be able to cook up a pan of brownies or a meal if she's so inclined. And, she'll actually have A/C!
I don't think the separation anxiety has ~truly~ hit oldest son yet -- he was too busy getting ready to move to China. (He left July 2. He has a year long job teaching ESL). But, there ~had~ been a flurry of extended long distance calls to Kenyon friends in the last 10 days or so before leaving.
Our rising hs senior was unable to find a job this summer so we've put him to work scraping and otherwise prepping the exterior of the house so he can paint it. So far the weather had been mostly agreeable. We even had a dry 4th of July, a rarity for the Pacific Northwest.
|By Morgantruce (Morgantruce) on Tuesday, July 08, 2003 - 01:31 pm: Edit|
"busy getting ready to move to China. (He left July 2. He has a year long job teaching ESL)."
My older daughter has been working at summer camps while she is studying at Wellesley. She is the ESL instructor at a camp for girls. I just got an email from her saying that all but one of her campers are Chinese. She really likes the work. I think I mentioned to you previously that she fell in love with Kenyon... soon after sending in her ED appplication to Wellesley. Strange coincidence.
|By Thedad (Thedad) on Tuesday, July 08, 2003 - 02:22 pm: Edit|
MT, thought of you the other day. D got a mailing from Kenyon. Would be on the "bears further investigation" list if she weren't quite so ornery about her criteria.
|By Morgantruce (Morgantruce) on Tuesday, July 08, 2003 - 02:43 pm: Edit|
I could see why some people could be charmed enough by Kenyon to abandon large chunks of their original "what to look for in a college" list.
I spoke to one of the young admissions counselors there who remembered how he was originally looking for a college with a big city atmosphere. Boy, did he ever get sidetracked: couldn't even tear himself away after four years--took a job in admissions. Maybe he'll get to New York some day.
|By Thedad (Thedad) on Tuesday, July 08, 2003 - 04:08 pm: Edit|
Well, D has already dialed down quite a bit to be considering a school in Northampton but I'm pretty sure that's about as small town as she'll go. From what I read about Williams, she'd go stark staring bonkers there...and that's without even considering that she's not a jock. (An example of a "bad fit.")
I'm kinda sorry she's not quite in the profile for Macalester, Carleton, Wellesley, and Swarthmore. All schools that seem to have a lot of what she's looking for but missing out on some key non-negotiables...like the access to high-level ballet.
|By Morgantruce (Morgantruce) on Tuesday, July 08, 2003 - 04:28 pm: Edit|
Certainly that last requirement (when added to great academics) is what makes the search a bit difficult... but not impossible.
|By Thedad (Thedad) on Tuesday, July 08, 2003 - 05:42 pm: Edit|
That's funny...we've found the search to be a bit difficult...but not impossible. Do you have us under surveillance?
|By Morgantruce (Morgantruce) on Tuesday, July 08, 2003 - 06:18 pm: Edit|
No, but I KNOW how adding just one so-so criteria cuts the "yield" back a bunch.
Ballet is a toughie. I figure you just went backwards: List all the schools that have great ballet, and pick one.
Just curious, have you considered a LOCATION that has great ballet classes... and a great college nearby? I can see the $$$$$$$ in your eyes!
|By Thedad (Thedad) on Tuesday, July 08, 2003 - 08:36 pm: Edit|
Actually, cross-referenced back and forth between good ballet locations and good schools, looking for doable intersection sets. Yale was a late add to the list only because it was rather late in the game when we scoped out New Haven Ballet...and AParent has me a little spooked about that.
The fact is, there aren't a lot of good ballet schools, period, that aren't associated with companies. D has the fortune/misfortune to attend a school that's known and recommended by SAB when folks look there looking for West Coast recommendations. Depending on how picky you are, there are 2-8 *good* junior ballet schools in the whole state of California...some folks have routinely driven two hours one-way to get to D's school.
As for location, D really wants to be in the Northeast, no further south than NYC. She's heard too many tales of strange folks who live in New Jersey. ")
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