Here are some great admissions tips I'd like to share with y

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Discus: College Search and Selection: August 2004 Archive: Here are some great admissions tips I'd like to share with y
By Admissionsrep (Admissionsrep) on Friday, July 16, 2004 - 11:27 pm: Edit

First of all, I want to be real clear about what I do: I am an admissions professional at a college prep boarding school. I also assist our two lead counselors as the third college counselor in our college counseling department.

I generally meet the majority of the college reps when they come to our school. I host the dinners they have with our students and I often lead the dialogue that these reps have when they attend our evening Q & A sessions with our students. I have met reps from over 100 different schools in the last three years.

I do not have a caseload of students for whom I am the primary counselor; I serve as the secondary counselor for a few dozen students every year. Most of what I know comes from my boarding school admissions experience which is almost IDENTICAL to college admissions in terms of admissions secrets and in terms of what schools look for. One exception is that US NEWS and World Report wields more influence in the college game, but with the emergence of, we now have a scorecard that families are using.

Anyway, this post is getting rather lengthy, I am going to list about five underrated keys to admissions and I will elaborate on any of these five that you want to hear my perspective on.

Admissions Underrated Tips

1) Cultivate a personal relationship with the admissions officer. It just breaks our hearts to deny kids that we have gotten to know, who we know want to come to our school. It's one hundred times harder to reject a person than it is to reject an application.

2) Clearly indicate which school is your first choice if possible. Schools love to know that they are going to yield an applicant. Make no mistake about it, Early Decision will really enhance your chances, but so will writing a first choice letter if you go regular decision. No one wants to be anyones safety. If a school is not your first choice, be honest with them, but always show enough interest so that when you are discussed in the admissions office, the committee thinks there is a good chance they will get you.

3) Know the schools you are applying to upside down and inside out. I remember a kid who once read our entire viewbook and curricular guide and man was I impressed. It's more impressive to show how much you know through your interaction than to just say, "I've read all of your materials." I know a mediocre student who got into Williams w/o a hook based on impressing the heck out of them with his knowledge of their school.

4) If a counselor comes to your school and hold a group session, make sure that you ask several good questions. I can't tell you how many times admissions counselors have come up to me after these sessions and said, "what was his or her name again". These sessions are group interviews and students need to know that.

5) Find out which schools are coming to visit your school in the fall. When you get the list, email or call the area rep and ask if you can have about 5 minutes of their time. These reps visit as many as 7 schools in a day. I still remember the Davidson rep making his 7th visit for the day. They often visit a school only to find two, three or even 0 students there to meet with them. They will be impressed by your interest and you will stand out.

I can list another ten to twenty tips in future emails, but I fear if I proceed here I will write a tome.

Hope this tips help.

By Neobez (Neobez) on Friday, July 16, 2004 - 11:50 pm: Edit

Hmm, thanks for your tips. I just wanted to know:
How do you get to have a personal relationship with an admissions officer?

By Abrandel05 (Abrandel05) on Saturday, July 17, 2004 - 12:06 am: Edit

I have a follow up on the previous do you get to know an admissions officer, when the school doesnt read by region, so theres no regional rep, and if they dont come to your area? Ive called and asked for their name but was forwarded to a student

By Momoffour (Momoffour) on Saturday, July 17, 2004 - 12:09 am: Edit

Thanks for the tips. What is the best way to explain a bad semester grade wise (D and F)when other grades are A/B with an occasional C?

By Admissionsrep (Admissionsrep) on Saturday, July 17, 2004 - 01:13 am: Edit

THe best way to explain a bad semester grade is to write your essay on the subject of "my bad semester".

Schools want to know something about you that they do not know and the essay is your chance to let them get to know you as a candidate. Schools can be fairly gracious if you can give them a good explanation for why you dipped in the semester.

I just counseled one of our students to write his essay on what it was like to live with a roommate who isn't serious about his studies. This roommate smoked pot and was content to be a C student. He often had friends who were very distracting in the room when the student I am working with was studying.

I believe that this will be a very effective essay. The school will learn a lot of positive things about the student and they will cut him some slack for the bad grades.

Schools use grades as predictors of how you will do at their school. Schools read apps backwards, so the senior year and junior years probably are about 75% of the grade and course evaluation. If your other semesters look stellar, you should be fine, but of course everyone knows on this site how ridculously competitive about 75 schools have gotten for students with no hook.

We are currently evaluating a student who has had one year of grade slippage, but they seem to have a reasonable explanation. The student is in a predominantly black school, but they were accepted into the competitive IB program at their school. The IB program is mostly white and the student is experiencing pressure from the black community to "not act white". The student is being torn so much between the high achieving white students and the pressure from the black community. It's a plausible explanation and the student brings some great athletic talent so I expect that we will accept her.

If the school doesn't have a regional reader, you need to just do some digging and find out who are some of the more veteran members of their admissions committee. It shouldn't be hard to get their numbers and emails and if you start keepin in touch with them in May of your junior year (or earlier) you will be way ahead of everyone else. Please avoid expecting too much correspondance from Oct until May of the junior year; schools are crazy busy at this time and they are focussed on the current seniors. May is great because it's a down time for schools as most selective schools will be done with their current class.

Hope that helps and I will share some more tips later in the month. Feel free to ask more Q's

By Mom101 (Mom101) on Saturday, July 17, 2004 - 03:11 am: Edit

Thank you for this post, it certainly clears up some things I was wondering having just been through the prep school admissions game. I really wondered if these school play the yield game as my daughter was waitlisted at what was the least competitive of the schools she applied to (with a recommendation from a teacher there who taught her in a summer session saying her talent was uncommon) and accepted at the top ones. The waitlist letter spoke of a "very small" list and seemed to say just call if we are your choice. Was this Tufts syndrome?

By Admissionsrep (Admissionsrep) on Saturday, July 17, 2004 - 10:27 am: Edit

Yes, this was the TUFTS syndrome. Some schools are much more conscious of this than others. Personally, we don't play that game, but we are an exception.

Basically, feeders schools (private k-8) are just like college counselors. I got a call from the placement director at our number one feeder this year to discuss one of their strongest applicants with me. My contact told me that, between me and you, the family has decided to saver their resources for college, and they will be going to public school; he was saying that if you are concerned about yield, I would pass on him.

Of course, there was a little agenda because he knew he had a student who would be harder to place with us and all schools are only going to take, but so many students from any respective feeder. He was hoping we would take her instead of him..

By Ledyana (Ledyana) on Saturday, July 17, 2004 - 10:39 am: Edit

Is it possible to apply to a really competitive university (such as swarthmore)... when ur sat is much lower 200 pts, but supported with a good essay and really high interest in the university? Im an international and I did really bad on my verbal section.. (I can only apply to 8 universities, and i need to choose them carefully).. thank you

By Taxguy (Taxguy) on Saturday, July 17, 2004 - 10:56 am: Edit

Ledyana, well, a "good essay" also means grammatically correct. Your statement, "I did really bad on my verbal section" is incorrect. Bad is an adjective, and badly, the adverb, is more appropriate. I would strongly urge you to have your essays reviewed by someone who does this for a living. This is probably good advice for most students.

Sorry, although I am not a grammar expert, I just am tired of seeing horrible writing expressed on forums and emails.

By Pyewacket (Pyewacket) on Saturday, July 17, 2004 - 10:58 am: Edit

My daughter is bright and can be articulate but is not poised and tends to fidget. She makes a good impression on adults in comfortable, familiar situations but often appears younger than her age because she is slim, shy and a bit nervous. She is straightforward and not good at gaging or manipulating what impression she is making.

Should see seek interviews for college where they are "optional but recommended"? Should she prefer alumni interviews to adcom? Any othe tips?

Thanks for your help.

By Madness (Madness) on Saturday, July 17, 2004 - 12:44 pm: Edit

how do you cultivate a personal relationship with the admissions rep, and what kind of questions are GOOD questions?

i always have trouble talking with adults, and am always hyper-polite and speak only when spoken to, as i was raised strictly under the "children should be seen and not heard" mantra.

By Thedad (Thedad) on Saturday, July 17, 2004 - 03:39 pm: Edit

Madness, I'm so sorry. There's a difference between "respectful" and "seen but not heard."

"Polite but self-aware and assertive" is a better mantra to bring up offspring with, imo. I think that "seen but not heard" handicaps kids when they're thrust into the adult or quasi-adult world.

By Madness (Madness) on Saturday, July 17, 2004 - 04:14 pm: Edit

well, I'm just shy anyway, but my upbringing jus accentuates it. it's a definite handicap; all my friends at school have formed friendships with their teachers, but not me.

By Anglophile (Anglophile) on Saturday, July 17, 2004 - 05:08 pm: Edit

Madness, recommendations are super important to most private schools, so start stalking your teachers! Ok, not in the creepy way, but stay after class and get to know the incredibly intelligent and talented people who are there to help you learn! I am still friends with many of my former teachers, and I've learned more from them that just what they taught in class.

By Admissionsrep (Admissionsrep) on Saturday, July 17, 2004 - 11:23 pm: Edit

It seems like there are about four new questions that have been asked:

Am I wasting my time applying to a school like Swarthmore if my SAT's are about 200 from their medians?

Should I interview if I'm not that great at interviewing?

What are good questions to ask?

How do I cultivate a relationship with an Admissions office? I will take these four questions in order.

Yes, you should still apply to at least one and probably two reach schools that you really like. I know an International student from our school that Swarthmore took even though he had high 1200's on his SAT's. This student brought unique International geographic diversity and he absolutely blew the Admissions Director away with his personality. The admissions director personally came to our school on the school visit and this student did everything you are supposed to do to cultivate a relationship. He currently is one of the top tour guides at Swarthmore. It is possible, but you need to have some hook that makes you appealing to the school. Remember, you are selling yourself. Your hook doesn't have to be athletic, alumni or URM; there are many other areas of unique strengths. If your scores are low, your grades are going to have to be high for a school like Swarthmore. By the way, schools do not expect English scores to be as high for Internationals for whom English is not their first language. Our school has had four students accepted at Swarthmore each of the last two years and three of these have been International students whose verbals scores were no where near the Swatties norms.

I would say that you should interview because it will make you more memorable and it will give you a chance to show your enthusiasm for the school. Enthusiasm is contagious and all people buy you on emotion. You should have someone give you some tips on how to improve your interviewing. The main thing is to express your strong interest in the school. Schools are flattered when they see students who love them more than anywhere else, but please don't tell every school that they are your first choice if they are not. A student did that last year to me and I am still not happy about it. Of course, the more demand there is for a school, the less impact showing interest will have, but it helps any applicant with all schools, irregardless of their selectivity level.

Bad questions are closed ended questions that are readily available in a viewbook or on the web; these questions make a rep feel like they are wasting their time. You are meeting with them and you are not prepared. They also reflect poorly on your level of intelligence. Finally, even if you do express interest in the school, it doesn't carry very much weight because every admissions rep wants you to LIKE THEM FOR WHO THEY ARE. If you don't know anything about the school, how can you like them when you don't know them.

Good questions get at things like the environment and culture of the school. If the questions are about an academic subject they should have some depth. In other words, it's great to say, "What percentage of your teachers in your computer science department have several years of business experience in the private sector in their field of study?" It's not great to say, do you offer computer science as a major.

Have a brainstorming session with several students, teachers, friends or counselors. Try to ask a question that you think is seldom asked. Reps get tired of the same old, "what is your student teacher ratio type of question"; man I am tired of that one.

You cultivate a relationship with a rep by finding out who is the designated reader for your school. If the school you are applying to doesn't use this method, find out the number, address and email of an experienced rep on the committee. I recommend writing them a handwritten initial letter indicating that you have very strong interest in their school, but you have some questions you would like to have answered.

You may want to start with an initial letter as early as May of your sophmore year. You can then wait all the way until May of your junior year to contact them again. If you have written a handwritten letter, the rep will remember you-if they haven't left because you know that turnover is high with admissions reps-and they will be impressed.

From May of your junior year until you hear from the school, you should be in touch with the rep about once a month. This should be a combination of emails, letters, calls, and seeing them when you make your on campus visit or seeing them when they are in your region. You will have to mostly use emails because the reps are assigned to huge regions and they need time for thousands of people, but I can assure you that if you are in range, your contact will be a huge tipping factor in your app. Of course, the school needs to believe that you are coming if accepted. If they feel you use this approach with eight schools, the impact is drastically lessoned. Some of these emails will be questions and sometimes you will be sharing something exciting that you have just learned about the school.

Let me know if I didn't answer any one of the questions or if there is a new question that has surfaced.

By Madness (Madness) on Sunday, July 18, 2004 - 12:07 am: Edit

what do i write about in the email?

"Hi, my name is _____ ______, and I'm very interested in _____ college/university. I have visited on ____ date, and am interesting in learning more about ____dept/major/internship opportunities/athletic programs..."

That just seems terribly formulaic to me.

By Xiggi (Xiggi) on Sunday, July 18, 2004 - 01:23 am: Edit


I read your original post and I have to admit that I was a bit puzzled by some of your points. I was happy to leave it at a mild disagreement that it is mostly based on our divergent opinion of the relative value of the traveling admissions' reps. I believe that we have learned, through many posts, that the people you meet at the class meetings are NOT necessarily involved with the selection and actually might not know that much about some of the procedures. The traveling crews are often responsible for spreading false information.

However, reading your subsequent post that contained this following little gem "THe best way to explain a bad semester grade is to write your essay on the subject of "my bad semester"." was even more perplexing and gave me great concerns about your posts. Why? First, it is obvious that you believe that working as an admission officer for a boarding school has given you tremendous insights in the college admission process. From your post, allow me to conclude that such a position is highly debatable. Back to the recommendation to explain a bad grade through THE essay ... that is easily one of the worst advice ever posted on College Confidential. While some schools might allow a student to explain extraordinary circumstances in a specific place, it is a GIANT mistake to discuss grades in the application essays. I am shocked that you would not know such a widely confirmed fact.

As far as the other tips, all I have to say is Caveat Emptor!

By Admissionsrep (Admissionsrep) on Sunday, July 18, 2004 - 02:20 am: Edit

Madness, it may seem formaliac to you, but what you have to realize is that with over 2000 four year schools out there, in a lot of ways the students have the power. Schools are extremely interested in quality students who are interested in them. Most schools have yields that are under 40% so they relish the chance to get a student who genuinely seems to be very interested in them. It's flattering that you want them when you have a couple thousand options and they don't get as many personal letters from sophs or juniors as you may think. Of course, I am assuming that the student making the contact is contacting schools for whom they are seen as a likely or 50/50.

It's still worth doing if your chances of being accepted are more like 25%, but the impact will be diminished as almost every school is on a mission to climb one more rung of the prestige ladder by increasing the quality of their student profile.

You shouldn't come off as formaliac as your email indicated. First of all, a handwritten letter in and of itself will be very personal.

You basically need to give your name, tell the school how you heard and about them, and let them know what you've heard about them. Let them know that you have several questions and you hope that you will be able to have some personal correspondance from them to begin a relationship that hopefully, will lead to you being a student at their school. You should include at least one or two questions and you should indicate that you would like to correspond with an admissions office and not a student who may give info that is not quite as current. I would only include the student section if you know that the respective school usually directs such inquiries to a student team.

If you are applying this approach to Harvard, don't expect it to have as much influence at a very good smaller school like a Davidson or Middlebury. The more letters they get like this, the less impact they have.

Xiggi, first of all I do more than just boarding school admissions. I also work with the director of our college counselor and do the initial consultation for about 25 students per year.

I should have been a little more specific about the essay. I don't think the essay is the only place where one can explain their bad semester, but it is important to not let it stand naked and open to some whimsical interpretation based on the prejudices and experiences of the readers of the file.

As far as the role that travelling admissions counselors go, I can only speak from my experience. I have had numerous conversations with the admissions counselors about how the impressions the students make on these visits, positively or negatively impact the students file more than students realize.

The admissions counselors are recruiters and what recruiter in the world would be paid by his employer to travel and meet recruits and not be expected to weigh in on the quality of the people they meet. This is true for corporate recruiters, athlete recruiters and admissions officers.

In fact, sometimes when I visit a feeder school I want to set up individual interviews, but the principal doesn't want the students to miss school. I am told to have a group session at lunch or at 3:30 and make astute observations about who is impressive and who is not. This info is then relayed to the placement director and the process of forming a list and assessing fit is off to a great start. These sessions are usually evaluative unless we are talking about an officer meeting with a rather large group.

Xiggi, while you and I may not agree on the prudence of my advice. I respect the fact that your tone is one of respectful disagreement. I respect you for that. I also don't want to pretend to be some know it all on college admissions. I come on this board as much to learn as I do to inform. When it comes to particular facts and insights about various schools, I learn a tremendous amount from this site every day. I have been doing college counseling and boarding school admissions for about five years now and that pales in comparison to some others on the board.

By Tropicanabanana (Tropicanabanana) on Sunday, July 18, 2004 - 03:00 am: Edit

I agree with Xiggi.

If I were an admissions counselor and the student wrote an essay blaming his poor grades on a roommate who smoked pot and other "distractions" in his room, it would just make me think that the person has never had any REAL problems, or that they weren't clever enough to think of a better excuse or a better way to use the essay.

By Admissionsrep (Admissionsrep) on Sunday, July 18, 2004 - 03:28 am: Edit

Clearly I didn't articulate very accurately what I was trying to say if you thought I was advocating blaming bad grades on a roomate who smoked pot.

What I was advocating was more of a, "Here is an area that I have grown in" type of essay. In the essay, one would candidly share some of the obstacles that were encountered during the particular year. The focus would not be to justify why you allowed yourself to be influenced by your roommate, but rather to say that I didn't block out the distractions as well as I could have, but I believe I've learned from that.

I read essays every single day and if someone wrote an essay like that; where they took responsibility for their actions, but also provided some context, they would find a sympathetic ear.

Anyway, I stand by my perspective, but we all have our own opinions. I'm not sure if my clarification is helpful or not.

By Soozievt (Soozievt) on Sunday, July 18, 2004 - 09:38 am: Edit

I agree with cultivating relationships or contact with your regional admissions rep. I agree with the letters, contact at college fairs in your region and if they visit your high school. My daughter did these things.

I disagree about the advice on the college essay regarding the poor grades. I don't think that should be the topic of the student's explanation of that experience. The essay should be on positive attributes. If there was a semester with bad grades, a supplemental statement can be submitted regarding that IF the excuse is truly one that is very valid...such as death in family, illness, and so forth. But the essay should not be used up for this. It is an opportunity to showcase strengths. Also, poor grades are a topic that the guidance counselor can address in his/her report and take care of it that way. An explanation may be in order...or statements to do with it not being indicative of this student's true abilities. But adcoms do not want lots of excuses from applicants. In the example you cited regarding a roommate whose behaviors were distracting....sorry, for me, it does not cut it. The student is responsible for his own grades. The student, if he could not get help from residential advisors to mediate the situation, then should have studied in a different space. A student is responsible for his or her own academic work and finding a way to achieve at a high standard. I am sorry but while I feel bad for the kid's roommate situation, it is not a good enough excuse for poor grades and I would not write about this for a college essay, even if the kid learned from the situation. I would focus the essay on positive qualities about the applicant. The dip in grades could be referred to by the guidance counselor if the guidance counselor thought there was a solid reason and felt that otherwise the student has achieved high grades in other years. That's it. Maybe include a supplemental statement included by the applicant. Making this the focus of the application or an essay is not a good idea.


By Hayden (Hayden) on Sunday, July 18, 2004 - 10:30 am: Edit

admissionsrep - I appreciate your interest in trying to help everyone, and the time and effort you are putting into your posts. Thank you!

By Jamimom (Jamimom) on Sunday, July 18, 2004 - 11:20 am: Edit

I am with the old CC crowd in the dip in grades unless there is a gem of an essay in the reason. Most kids have no real reason, and what reason they have is an issue that many other kids have faced an overcome. For the top schools, it is not going to help. Hand in hand with a dedicated college counselor, there can be weight in some explanation.

However, any glaring drop in grades, disciplinary issues--rap sheet stuff does need to be explained and a supplementary essay is in order, really required for things of that magnitude. I am probably the queen of the rap sheet essay, having gone through numerous application processes with my bad boys to prep schools and colleges. Will be doing it again, I am afraid, this year.

Kids who are fortunate enough to enjoy a great relationship with the college counselors can write their essays to be in synch with the references, and do alot of other things that are not options for most kids whose schools are not so proactive. In my experience, a phenomonal distinction is needed to offset a term of bad grades in the elite college scene. A homerun, a mouth opeing display of excellence above and beyond. That is tough to do under any circumstance. A dutiful return to excellence does not seem to be enough.

By Admissionsrep (Admissionsrep) on Sunday, July 18, 2004 - 12:24 pm: Edit

Is a B in an advanced or AP course better than an A in a regular course?

This is the conventional wisdom and virtually all admissions counselors will tell you this, but this is not always true.

Every school is different and some schools, IMO, do not accurately adjust for just how much harder some courses are than others when they evaluate a transcript.

Dickinson's Director of Admissions is very candid about this subject and I appreciate his candor because I find his voice to be a rare dose of candor on this subject.

Dickinson believes that a B+ in an advanced or AP is better than an A in a regular, but this is not necessarily true of a standard B. Of course there is MIT which tells it's applicants that we want you to take the most rigourous courses and we expect you to get A's in these courses.

It is understandable why schools want a student to take the most rigorous course they can take. Here are some of the benefits to doing that:

1) It says a lot about your drive and motivation
2) It speaks to your self confidence
3) It speaks to your intellectual curiosity.
4) Most importantly, if you can excel in a rigourous course, it is a better predictor of your ability to handle college level work. Considering the fact that colleges are often very perplexed with their attempt to ascertain just how rigorous a school's curriculum (refering primarily to schools that are not traditional feeder schools) really is, these advanced and AP classes often give one the benefit of the doubt.

It sounds like I am making the case for the B in the Advanced or AP being preferrable to the A in a regular course, but I have seen numerous cases where schools have surprisingly accepted straight A kids who did not take any AP's or advanced courses. In our 2003 class, this happened with both Princeton and Swarthmore.

I haven't kept in touch as closely with the Princeton student, but I know that the Swarthmore student got an A in all but one course in her first year there.

Some schools have the mentality that an A student sets personal standards that are so high for themselves that they just refuse to lower these standards. When they are forced to take the more challenging college courses, they will make the commensurate adjustments in time management and they will excel.

Many schools echo what Michelle Hernandez said, "A is Truly for Admissions".

I am curious what others think about whether a B in an advanced is always better than an A in a regular course.

By Madness (Madness) on Sunday, July 18, 2004 - 12:46 pm: Edit

admissionsrep: thanks for your advice!!! i agree with you: prep schools are microcosms for college, complete with athletic recruits, AA, and international students, so it stands to reason boarding-school and college admissions about the same. i know it's late for me, but i'll start corresponding with adcoms from my top reach schools, Barnard (after my interview), Penn, Dartmouth, etc.

in the letter, should i first explain what attracted me to them? i.e., for Barnard & Penn, I visited on such-and-such date and was attracted to the urban, mobile environment, etc., and then go on to say, I'd like to learn more about [] and look forward to future correspondance.??

you've been a huge help.

By Jamimom (Jamimom) on Sunday, July 18, 2004 - 12:47 pm: Edit

I don't think that a B in an advanced class is always better than an A in a regular class. It depends on the whole picture of the applicant, the highschool where the applicant is taking the courses and the college that is viewing the transcript. For an example of the latter, if a student is applying to Penn State, I don't think it makes a difference to them when they are inputting the numbers that spell admit or deny whether the A is in AP Calc or Regular Calc. Nor would it make that big of a difference for a top English/history type student who has done extremely well and decides to eschew AP calc and take the regular calc. However, if the student has MIT aspirations or math/engineering/physics interests, it will stand out that he is taking regular calc over AP calc, when both sections are offered at his high school. It also makes a difference on what the breakdown at the highschool is as to who is taking calc or ap calc. In my son's school there is no designation of AP in the Calc courses, but it is understood that one of the Calc courses prepares the student for the AP calc AB test and the other for the AP calc BC test. Those colleges with experience with the school, will be able to take note of the difference, other colleges will not. According to the college counselor there, unless you are going for a top math designation, it does not seem to affect admissions.

Welcome to the Forum, Admissionsrep. Hope to see over at the Parent's Forum as well. Alot of questions have been coming up regarding preparatory schools and their policies.

By Momoffour (Momoffour) on Sunday, July 18, 2004 - 02:01 pm: Edit

Jamimon- back to the drop in grades. What can one say in a supplemental essay to explain an extreme case of laziness/life is short and I want to have fun so I quit doing work in classes I hated? To not say anything though seems a mistake and I don't know what the counselar could say. I know tier one is out, but how will this effect tier two schools?

By Bucca (Bucca) on Sunday, July 18, 2004 - 02:38 pm: Edit

To Momoffour, I think I have heard that students getting D's can retake those classes during summer school and remove the D on the transcript. Does anyone have any experience with this?

By Taxguy (Taxguy) on Sunday, July 18, 2004 - 02:58 pm: Edit

Overall, I would agree that taking an honors or AP course is better, even if you get a "B" then getting an "A" in a regular course. However, as with life, there are exception. For example, some schools admit based on grade point or solely on class rank. The University of Texas, for example, admits everyone in the top 10% of their class regardless of courses taken. Thus, you need to make an inquiry about this policy to all colleges that you think that you may apply to.

However, the bottom line is to generally take those honors courses. At the least, it will give you a better education and will prepare you better for college.

By Admissionsrep (Admissionsrep) on Sunday, July 18, 2004 - 03:14 pm: Edit

Madness, I like the outline of the letter you shared. Schools always want to know what attracted you to their school. You will distinguish yourself from more than 90% of Barnard apps by not only corresponding, but by doing it so early. I know I said this before, but it is so important, it warrants me repeating the fact that schools are flattered when a quality student shows interest in them because there are over 2000 schools and the leverage in the application game is with the students.

I know that all of the leverage switches over to the school once the app is submitted, but schools have to work real hard to get apps because there is so much competition. Even if a school has a lot of apps, the admissions counselors are expected to get more apps from their territory for the following year. In fact, in some schools that are aggressively trying to increase their stature, the number of apps from the territory is a paramount factor in performance evaluations.

Howard University is an example of another school where getting a B is an advanced course IS DEFINITELY worse than even a B+ in a regular course.

Howard computes GPA irrespective of the level at which the course is taken. This isn't fair, but I guess due to the lack of personnel they weigh all courses the same.

I met with their staff on their campus a few months ago and I really challenged them on this. They even give out merit money based on a certain combo of GPA and SAT scores and it's irrelevent whether your grade is in regular English or Honors english. I forgot to mention Howard in my last post, and while very few schools are as extreme as Howard, students need to realize just how much schools like to see A's on transcripts.

I am currently working with one of our rising seniors who will be applying to four Ivy's and some selective liberal arts courses. He wants to take a killer advanced bio course at our school, but he knows that his focus in college will be prelaw. I have told him that unless he is just overly passionate about this course, he may want to take a course he will have an easier time getting an A in. The teacher who teaches this course is notorious for making a B a real challenge for gifted students.

Three years ago John Hopkins denied one of our stars and when our lead counselor followed up, she was told that this student got a C+ in AP Bio. This student just received a top student award at Princeton and she had other similar choices of schools of that ilk, but Hopkins didn't properly account for the level of difficulty in the bio class and they denied her.

Something to think about!

By Lordmandean (Lordmandean) on Sunday, July 18, 2004 - 03:45 pm: Edit

admissionrep...Thanks a lot for your insider tips and info...really made me think on how I am going to approach and apply to universities. Can I e-mail you in the future if I need to discuss anything regarding my application to Columbia GS?


By Jamimom (Jamimom) on Sunday, July 18, 2004 - 04:46 pm: Edit

A drop in grades is a tricky one to explain. I have seen kids who have done well in the admissions process despite a significant drop by truly excelling above and beyond in some enterprise. If your student is looking into some school that requires a certain gpa, or class rank and the term is truly a disaster, you may want to check about the possibility of retaking some courses. In this school district, if you retake the course in the summer, the grade is averaged, though the credits are only counted once. So D's can be mitagated to C's in the average by retaking.

It really depends on the drop in grades--down to B's from A's or worse? What schools are we talking about? What kind of highschool do does the student attend? What year is he in highschool? A low grade in Precalc can be somewhat mitagated with a "A" in AP calc and a high SAT2c score. Is the drop worthy of an essay on the subject? Can it be worked into an essay? Can the school counselor or advisor help out here in his rec? Can he excell the next term in the subject at a higher level, get that teacher to write a top rate reference and mitagate the low grade in the subject from the prior year? An independent study or some extra research can make a difference. If you can work with the teacher for the reference, it would help as well. Also for kids with really high SAT scores, if the grades go back up, there are a number of schools that will excuse the lapse, as they are seeking top test scores.

By Jake (Jake) on Sunday, July 18, 2004 - 04:47 pm: Edit

One of the best threads I've seen on this board.

Thanks you

By Choff (Choff) on Sunday, July 18, 2004 - 06:45 pm: Edit

This is very interesting. I think you answered my question as I was wondering about the perception when the SAT's are high (very high 1400's) but the gpa may be more around a 3.4 or 3.5. If you're not looking at applying ED, do they really look closely at the first semester senior grades, and compare them to the junior grades, especially if the junior grades were not fantastic? I'm talking about a C in language and C+ in precalc (with no 4th year language as a senior, but B's earlier). I'm encourage at least now to hear that B and B+ in AP classes may be looked at higher than reg class, especially at Dickinson. Know anything about Gettysburg? What about public schools? Do they in general do the same, or go more by the numbers? Thanks!

By Mom101 (Mom101) on Sunday, July 18, 2004 - 06:58 pm: Edit

Admissionsrep, I read a post you wrote on another thread, and it become clear that kids from prep schools that have the rare breed of college counselors and low student/counselor ratios must have a HUGE advantage. do other schools have this kind of counseling? Is yours an "elite" prep or do most boarding schools have great counselors?

By Xiggi (Xiggi) on Sunday, July 18, 2004 - 07:24 pm: Edit


Out of curiosity, how many of your students have applied and matriculated at Stanford, MIT, or Caltech in the past five years?

By Mom101 (Mom101) on Sunday, July 18, 2004 - 07:35 pm: Edit

Xiggi, if you want to see those numbers for preps look on The numbers for the elite preps: Andover, St. Paul's, Exeter, Groton, Deerfield, Choate, Hotchkiss, Milton...are amazing.

By Reidmc (Reidmc) on Sunday, July 18, 2004 - 11:31 pm: Edit

Xiggi - FWIW. . .no MIT, Stanford or Caltech matriculants in the past five classes. May have had some acceptances though.

By Admissionsrep (Admissionsrep) on Monday, July 19, 2004 - 04:30 pm: Edit

Xiggi, we had a kid pick Yale over MIT last year. Very few of our applicants apply to Stanford or Cal Tech; I'm not sure why. Our last kid to go to MIT went in 1997. Pomona has become popular and I know a student two very accomplished rising juniors for whom Stanford is their first choice, so I expect at least one will go.

We tend to have more students applying to the top liberal arts schools like Haverford and Swarthmore, but we've had two Harvards, two Princeton's and a Yale in the last two years. Some years we get five Brown's, but this year we had three Brown's. Our senior class is usually around 90-100. We've had eight kids get into Swarthmore in the last two years, but only two opted to go there.

Mom, one of the best things that you get at a boarding school is amazing college counseling. We have one of the best in the business as our lead counselor. Ask any school in the college in the nation about Susan Tree and they effervesce. I try to learn all I can from her.

It is a huge advantage not only because of the great counseling, but because our students are so well known by the faculty that they get incredibly detailed teacher references.

Colleges have told me that they often would rather go with the kid that they know than the potential superstar/potential bust that they don't know that well. This isn't always the case, many are willing to roll the dice, but there is a certain comfort level that comes when a college really knows the applicant they are getting.

Mt. Holyoke told me that they get more detailed info from us on our students than any other school. Bryn Mawr told me that they love boarding students because they get a chance to see how a student handled the increased independance; it is seen as less of a leap from boarding school to college dorm.

Mom, I wouldn't say that we are one of the eight most prestigious boarding schools, but the consensus would have us in between 20th and 30th. We are a Quaker school, so having this niche lets us beat out some of the ten most selective schools for applicants who want a school that emphasizes character building, social justice, peace, equality and a lifestyle of service. Schools like Brown who value this, love our applicants. Thank God there is no official ranking out there; someone tried it, but fortunately schools didn't comply.

If anyone is curious, I regard the elite of the boardingschool world to be:

St. Paul's

This is the equivalent of Harvard, Princeton and Yale.

The following schools would be the equivalent of the bottom half of the IVY league:


Some other very elite schools would be:

Miss Porter's and Madiera as Girls schools and Cate and Thatcher as California schools.

We would be grouped in with about 15-20 schools after the schools I've mentioned. Believe it or not, there are hundreds of college prep boarding schools with Connecticutt, Mass and New Hampshire being the places where you will find a good chunk of them. has become like US News for many, but thankfully Javier (the guy who runs the site) refuses to come up with aggegate rankings because he knows they are bogus.

Hope this helps

By Xiggi (Xiggi) on Monday, July 19, 2004 - 05:42 pm: Edit


Thank you for providing the details. I had seen the numbers of your institution.

I was trying to reconcile your experience and subesequent advice about admission policies with the overall list of your targeted schools. My conclusion is that the strategies and tips you posted would tend to work better at the LAC than at the schools that attract very large number of apllicants.

I believe that my own reaction to your posts was a tad too "large school-centric". I guess that it is a way to admit that my criticisms were quite off-base.


By Admissionsrep (Admissionsrep) on Monday, July 19, 2004 - 07:17 pm: Edit

Xiggi, no problem, I enjoy your posts and will continue to read them.

By Mom101 (Mom101) on Monday, July 19, 2004 - 10:46 pm: Edit

Admissionsrep, this is one of the best threads on these boards. Thank you. Encourage your peers to write occassionally too, there are so few insiders here. And since you seem to know the folks at Boarding School Review, please encourage them to be more daring. If they don't want to rank they should publish a ranking survey. It's the only current-day guide to boarding schools but it's tepid. I have a book published about 25 years ago, The Harvard Independant Guide to Prep Schools, which truly gave a glimpse inside--that's what parents like me, who went into the process without a 4 generation family history or a feeder school, need!

By Emilia (Emilia) on Monday, July 19, 2004 - 11:52 pm: Edit

Admissionsrep, thank you once again for taking the time to read and reply to everyone's queries.

And so I have a few questions of my own.

1. Is it generally good or bad to enclose supplementary materials in college applications? And if so, what kind are acceptable and would make a good impression upon admissions officers? I'm co-editor-and-chief of my school's paper and also the first and only humor columnist; every month or so I turn out a creative piece ranging from amusingly witty to a written declaration of my impending insanity due to the rigors of the IB program - would any such piece be appropriate? Otherwise, what kind of supplements would help? I know admissions officers are bogged down with oodles of applications and such to read, so I don't want to hurt myself by including such a piece that the officer might not even find funny.

2. Yep, I'm full-IB. I attend a private, small religious school that takes every opportunity possible to brag about the IB program, and every year about 15 or so students graduate with IB diplomas out of the 15 or 16 who attempted out of a graduating class of 110-150. Is this something that should be played up or played down? Believe me, I've suffered (and won) under the cruel masters of IB Biology, the course that is almost unanimously considered the hardest of the school. And would this be a good college admissions essay topic, or is it too cliche?

3. Are you familiar at all with the Davidson Young Scholars program (no affiliation to Davidson College)? And if so, should being among the few hundred of these young people be mentioned on college applications?

4. I know this is not an uncommon scenario these days, but I'm the daughter of an immigrant who had to quit school at fourteen in exchange for work so he could help support his large family. Of course, as many others do, he worked his way up through hard work, perseverance, sacrifice, etc., and is now sacrificing more so that I can get the education he never had. Should this be played up/written on? I feel a bit guilty for mentioning this as it wasn't my struggle and I've had a lot more opportunities than him. I don't want it to be looked upon like he is living vicariously through me, as that is not the case.

For general purposes, my top two schools are Rice and Davidson. I would gladly push Davidson aside for a chance at the Rice/Baylor med program, as I'm sure a great number of those at this board would.

So if you can answer any of my questions, I would greatly appreciate it. Thanks again for your time!

By Admissionsrep (Admissionsrep) on Tuesday, July 20, 2004 - 12:52 am: Edit

Okay, there are several new questions that I will attempt to answer. Some of these questions I don't know the answer to and I am not going to pretend that I do.

Let me start by addressing Mom 101's post about boardingschoolreview. I am our schools contact for this site, so I email Javier regularly, in fact we exchanged two emails today.

Personally, I am thrilled that BSR (not their official abbreviation, but the one I will use from now on)does not have aggregate rankings. The fact that there is no USN out there coming up with a bogus aggregate rankings, gives us the liberty to do true admissions and not be beholden to special interests. I say USN is bogus because colleges or boarding schools need to be a correct match for a family and while you can rank in categories (which BSR and USN do); you can't possibly come up with a ranking of "best" when best will vary from person to person. It's a lot like rating who would be the perfect wife or husband-how can one possibly does this when each persons preferences are so different?

I will tell you some of the things I am liberated from in boarding school admissions that my colleagues who do college admissions are saddled with:

College admissions officers are commissioned to get as many applications as possible, so they can deny more kids and appear more selective. This drives admissions officers with sensitive consciences crazy.

We routinely get phone calls from families that we know have no shot at being accepted. Often someone will call and say, my kid has mostly C's and a D and we think a new environment may help him. Many college admissions officers are still told to tell this family that you never know what will happen, so you need to apply and just see what happens. We do what is right for the family by directing them to either an educational consultant to help place them or to schools that are less selective than ours.

If BSR was to go to a composite ranking, they almost assuredly would look at acceptance rate as one stat in their rankings. Like colleges, we would be forced to encourage some of these kids to apply to improve our selectivity or we could be the one exception (like Reed college) and refuse to change our ways only to suffer the consequences in our reduced ranking.

Another example is how colleges use SAT scores. Colleges know that SAT scores are not good predictors of grades in college. Colleges know that high grades in challenging courses is the best predictor of academic success, but they are forced to look for high test takers because it helps their USN ranking. In actuality, it is only around 5% of a schools ranking, but it's one of those statistics that students and families put a lot of emphasis on in their perception of the academic quality of the institutiion.

Javier and his partner are graduates of Northfield Mt Herman and they know how ridiculous composite rankings are. I have had two conversations with him about this and they even say in their description of services to their member schools, that they will never provide a composite ranking.

I know that people are looking for shortcuts in the process, but I think that reading materials, studying websites, and first and foremost, visiting schools is the way to go. Of course, you always want to dialogue with others who have gone to the instituition. Factors like, distance from home, size of school, college list, clubs, history, gender balance and gender history, as well as excellence in the arts and athletics should be weighed. When you've done all your research, you go with your gut and you trust it.

BSR actually provides in depth testimonials of students experiences at each school; these can be very useful and believe me, students are consulting them. I had four people tell me that they used this in one week last year.

BSR and USN also provide helpful top 20 lists of areas that one should consider. You can hit the hyperlink at the bottom of these lists and get an exhaustive list of every school and where it ranks each category.

Well, this email is getting lengthy, so I will quickly touch on two other subjects:

If you are including supplemental materials, please DO NOT SEND SOMETHING THAT WILL TAKE AN ADMISSIONS OFFICER LONG TO LOOK AT. We get all of these videos of plays and other things that would take 30 minutes to 2 hours to review. These things can hurt an applicant because the officer can resent the insensitivity of the person for having the effontery to expect their voluminous materials to be reviewed.

Now, if you are a very gifted musician, you should send a copy of your music so the admissions dept can send it out to the music dept for review. However, you should only do this if you believe that when your material is reviewed, the adcom will say, "Wow".

I am not saying not to include supplemental materials, but I recommend only one and only do it if it showcases some aspect of what you bring to the school that the rest of your application hasn't demonstrated. Also, as I've stated, it should be something that can be read or observed in less than 3 minutes. This is a good rule of thumb.

If you want to know how busy Admissions officers are, consider the story of William & Mary where all the officers worked until 2 am, 7 days a week in Jan and Feb because they were blitzed with 400-500 more apps than the previous year.

I will answer some of the other questions in a different email within the next 24 hours.

By Mom101 (Mom101) on Tuesday, July 20, 2004 - 01:13 am: Edit

Your points on rankings are well taken. I used the BSR top lists for a high achieveing child and we applied to all the usual suspects. She ended up choosing one in your most elite group, but would have considered a school like yours had we known about it. I myself had a scholarship to a quaker camp as a child and it was key in shaping me. I think there are a lot of families like mine looking at boarding schools as our kids outgrow small local privates. But in areas like mine where boarding schools are a rare consideration and there are no feeder schools, we have few resources for delving deep. Guess I should have hired a consultant although I do feel very good about our choice.

By Mom101 (Mom101) on Tuesday, July 20, 2004 - 01:17 am: Edit

Also collegerep, there is a young man who lurks on these boards, a Bronx Science student, who is considering applying to boarding schools for 10th and 11th grade. He is clearly very bright, driven and dedicated. He has a 99 on the SSATs. How hard will it be for him to get a scholarship? Any advice?

By Wondermonkey (Wondermonkey) on Tuesday, July 20, 2004 - 02:13 am: Edit

Admissionsrep - thanks for all of the insightful remarks!

My question is, however, what about the artistically talented kids that apply to schools like NYU - Tisch, Carnegie Mellon, Oberlin, USC, various prestigious visual arts schools, etc. that have rigorous academic requirements as well as a creative review? What advice would you give to such students, and have you dealt with any of these cases at your school?

The reason I ask is because I'm in a bit of a dilemma.

Currently, I'm an entering African-American female in the junior class. I'm ranked 2 out of about 350 students in a non-competitive public HS with an unweighted G.P.A. of 3.9 (our school is non-competitive; however, the math dept. chair who teaches all advanced math - algebra II honors through AP calc - is
notorious for harsh grading policies.)

I want to apply to Tisch for Dramatic Writing. However, I've been so focused with my studying, other extracurriculars, etc. that I don't have much experience other than writing extensively on my own (i.e. no summer programs, internships, etc.) How much will this hurt me?

I know this message is long :/ Thanks for your input!

By Lordmandean (Lordmandean) on Tuesday, July 20, 2004 - 08:26 am: Edit

admission rep:
how much wieght would a law degree from a UK university (Russel group) carry when applying to Columbia School of General Studies for a second bachelors? None of the lecturers in my current universities have experience dealing with US university so would be really grateful if you can shed some light on the matter. Thanks once again!

By Angeldesignpro (Angeldesignpro) on Tuesday, July 20, 2004 - 10:10 am: Edit

I think Stanford's application sheds good insight into what's acceptable and what's not as far as extra information goes. It has an entire section dedicated to submitting any kind of art or performance material for consideration, and allows you to submit a page to explain anything significant that was not otherwise conveyed in the application. Other than that, on the instructions page it specifically says not to send anything else.

The problem I see with bad grade/good class or good grade/bad class is that no matter what you do you will wind up competing with people who got good grades in good classes. Because of that, it seems that the best bet is to try as hard as you can in AP/honors/IB/etc classes instead of "giving up" in advance.

By Interesteddad (Interesteddad) on Tuesday, July 20, 2004 - 01:15 pm: Edit

Thanks for writing your tips, AdmissionsRep. I agree with some more than others, but I strongly agree with the advice to learn as much as you can about the school and to build a personal relationship with your regional adcom. This is particularly valueable at smaller schools -- liberal arts colleges and mid-size universities. AdmissionsRep is absolutely right. The more you can become a "person" rather than an "application", the harder it will be for an adcom to reject you when choosing among many roughly comparable applicants.

My daughter began communicating by e-mail with her regional adcom at her first choice liberal arts college in June before her senior year (she had already visited campus once). The e-mails included a brief introduction and then focused on specific areas of interest. Most of the communication with the adcom was simply cc: copies of e-mail correspondence with professors and staff people in specific departments -- some with questions, some setting up individual meetings for the fall overnight visit.

Statistically, my daughter was probably an "average" Swat applicant from an "average" public high school. However, when asked what the admissions office was looking for in reading the early decision apps, the Dean of Admissions chose to highlight the importance of the "Why Podunk U?" essay. He said that most applicants can cite the academics and the gorgeous campus, but what really impressed them was a student who had taken the initiative to really research the school and who could give specific reasons why Podunk would be a great fit.

Because of her communication, my daughter was able to write about four specific individuals on campus and how each inspired her in a different way. I've read another successful essay that made it clear the student understood one of the key components of the campus "culture" -- challenging each other to debate thought-provoking ideas.

In my opinion, a qualified applicant can signficantly increase his or her odds at many schools with what is known in the business world as an "informational sell", whereby you sell your product by learning about the true interests of your customer.

An "informational sell" is not only helpful in college applications, but is THE essential tool for job hunting after college.

By Admissionsrep (Admissionsrep) on Tuesday, July 20, 2004 - 05:41 pm: Edit

Okay, I promised to answer the questions I haven't addressed within 24 hours, so here it goes. I believe I will have addressed every question after this email.

Choff-high SAT's and Low GPA's can be an absolute killer at a selective school. You immediately get labelled as an underachiever and that isn't good. Almost every time we've taken a chance on a kid like this, their grades have been the better predictors than their test scores.

There are some schools that will give you the benefit of the doubt and label you as a potential "late bloomer", but that is very rare with selective schools because you are competing with someone who has high grades and high scores. Of course if you are hooked, it can offset things and help immensely.

Choff, I don't know exactly how much Gettysburg gives you a boost for the more rigorous curriculum, but almost all private schools give a boost. I just think that often times it's more like a half grade then a full grade. I appreciated Dickinson admitting this because so many people will tell you that a B in an advanced honors is better than an A in regular and for a lot of schools, B's in AP's and Advanced courses will get you quick thin envelope. Of course straight A's in regular courses can get you the same response.

I do know that Haverford really likes to see advanced or AP courses. I've seen them send the thin envelope to applicants with straight A's, and good references, but applicants who didn't take advantage of the challenging courses we offered.

Mom, I think you had a great idea when you challenged me to encourage the counselors that I know to post on this board. Most of them do counseling all the time, so they will probably take a pass, but I know several that I believe would oblige. I know reps who are at colleges and full time college counselors who work at high schools. I will see who I can get for this board.

Emilia-if only 15 people out of 110 get an IB diploma, this is ABSOLUTELY something that should be played up. I just think that it should be done by your counselor or in a teacher ref and not by you. You never want to come off as a braggard; it's an admissions killer.

Emilia, I believe the Davidson scholars program is their program for gifted HS students to come attend the summer of their junior year. I know one person who went there and attended it. I can't tell you how much weight they specifically put on this program, but usually these programs are very very attractive to schools. Schools have these programs to try to get a potential applicant to fall in love with their school. The mentality that a lot of schools have is, "I don't care how well you did in HS, I'm somewhat skeptical of your ability to transition to college and excel, but if you do well in our summer program, you've made a believer out of me". Of course programs like Yale's (my top tour guide is there for one right now), Princeton, Cornell, and Stanford-all of which I am more familiar with than Davidson's-get so many applicants that the boost to one's application is incremental at best. I would think that Davidson would weigh this more heavily than the IVY's due to number of applications, but I don't know this for certain. One of my colleagues worked inside the admissions office at Princeton and he now does college counseling for a non-profit organization that works with talented, but low income youth. He is pushing all of their applicants to these programs because it can greatly help in the college admissions process.

Emilia-your immigrant story is so compelling that you are being completely negligent if your schools don't learn about this. Schools love to accept the "overcomer of significant obstacles".

Mom-the kid from Bronx science should have no problems getting a scholarship to a boarding school. 99% kids always are appealing-if they have excellent grades and quality references-his chances are much better in 10th than 11th. I am very familiar with Bronx Science and all of the boarding schools will be as well. I hate to be so blunt, but there is such a anti-Asian bias when it comes to allocating financial aid, that if this student is Asian, they will probably have to stay away from the elite 8-10 schools I referred to as being analogous to the Upper and Lower part of the IVY league. Schools feel they can get "enough" full pay Asians that they are wary about allocating aid even for 99% on the SSAT. I know some real horror stories that would break your heart at how top Asians get overlooked when they need money. For some reason Filipino's don't get treated the same way. One experienced person in the admissions world tells me it's because they almost look Hispanic.

Wondermaker-Tisch and other visual arts programs put a significant amount of emphasis on your portfolio. They want grades, references and scores, but they are looking for evidence of talent. Excellent writing is a talent, so you should be fine. Also, your ranking is so impressive (2nd out of 350) that they will see few students of color with your credentials, you should do fine. They need diversity and you will be compared to the other black students in their pool. Don't let anyone display their jealousy and make you feel guilty on these boards; I've seen too much of that at times at CC. Remember, no one is giving you your grades, you will earn everything you deserve once you get there and no one can take that from you. Also, ask yourself why so few people are outraged about alumni priviledged kids who get a tipping factor in admissions, but are often very priviledged. Lani Gunier says, "those in power write the rules so that they can declare themselves the winners". It's something to think about.

Lord-I don't know how your Kentucky law degree will play with Columbia in their general studies program, but I do know that most schools like older students and they like students with real world experience. Their thinking is that you are more mature and probably more likely to have chosen a field that is a good match for who you are. They also like the experiences your extra years bring to class discussions and their environment. Of course ageism is alive and well on campuses and in socieity, but you don't sound like your 60.

Interesteddad-I love what you said about the informational sell. People need to see applying to college the way they see, "trying to land a job, or trying to make a sale". It's a competitive process and either they buy you or they don't. With all the deadlines and other matters, applicants must learn how to really sell themselves and it's hard to sell yourself with only a peripheral relationship with the buyer.

By Interesteddad (Interesteddad) on Tuesday, July 20, 2004 - 06:18 pm: Edit

>> I love what you said about the informational sell. People need to see applying to college the way they see, "trying to land a job, or trying to make a sale".

It's only human nature. In that mile-high stack of applications at a selective college, a few will be "walk-on-water" applicants who will be accepted automatically. A few will be clearly under-qualified and rejected out of hand. But, the vast majority will fall somewhere in the middle. For whatever reason, the adcoms are going to select some qualified applicants over others. If they have come to know a qualified applicant over six months of courteous, professional communication, it is very hard to reject that candidate.

We had some long discussions about the informational sell in our house. It is not a skill that is taught in high school and my daughter initially viewed "the art of the schmooze" as pestering the adcom. I suppose that could happen (particularly if you continue it into app reading season). However, at the end of the day, what do you have to lose? A rejection letter? If you don't do something to stand out, you're probably going to get one of those anyway.

I think it was a very good learning experience: researching the names of key people in a department. Finding articles they had written to learn about their departments. Then, writing a letter of introduction and following up with questions or a request for meetings. It's really not that difficult and, for the most part, colleges were very responsive. The key is to be doing it NOW, not in November when adcoms are buried in applications.

By Marite (Marite) on Tuesday, July 20, 2004 - 06:42 pm: Edit


I appreciate your general advice very much and your willingness to respond to individual questions.

Re: the Davidson Talent Development Program you are quite wrong, though. It has nothing to do with Davidson College. The Davidson Talent Development Institute was created to nurture profoundly gifted children (defined as IQ of 160+ by some, or 180+ by others). Some winners of their scholarships have won major awards and gone on to HYPSMC. Look up

By Mom101 (Mom101) on Tuesday, July 20, 2004 - 06:43 pm: Edit

Interstatedad, your daughter's approach is one I'm putting in the file. Thanks admissionsrep, he is Indian. I didn't notice as many Indians as other Asians on my tour. What do you think?

By Interesteddad (Interesteddad) on Tuesday, July 20, 2004 - 07:36 pm: Edit

>> Interstatedad, your daughter's approach is one I'm putting in the file.

I believe that the approach worked mostly because, in the process of meeting with alumni, students, professors, adcoms and staff, my daughter came to understand that the school was the perfect "fit" for her and why. Because she really believed that she and the college were made for each other, the "selling" came easily.

The funny thing is that, on the surface, her college is no different on paper than at least half a dozen other similar schools. However, there are nuances in the cultures, traditions, and emphasis at similar schools that make one a better fit than another. A student who truly is a great "fit" will have an admissions edge because a great "fit" is really the goal of the admissions office.

I recommend spending far less time worrying about whether this school has a stronger astrophysics major or that school a stronger French History concentration and more time really trying to learn the big picture "style" of a school.

By Mom101 (Mom101) on Tuesday, July 20, 2004 - 08:12 pm: Edit

It's funny, but I was surprised to learn that my 14 yo already understands this. She explained to me why she would not even consider applying to Harvard and her reasoning was sound! We will spend time over the next 4 years visiting colleges at leisure. I know for me there was no doubt when I visited the college I went to. I am horrified that so many kids choose colleges by US News rankings and not much else.

By Madness (Madness) on Tuesday, July 20, 2004 - 09:26 pm: Edit

hey admissionsrep:

how would you rank St. Mark's in terms of the boarding school world? I know it's a baaaad boarding school (as bad as boarding schools can be), and that it has relatively little clout w/ elite much will this hurt me???

btw, Grotties make fun of us. we're their main rival, but Groton is 10x the school SM is.

By Jamimom (Jamimom) on Tuesday, July 20, 2004 - 09:48 pm: Edit

There are advantages to being at St Mark's over Groton. There are many who believe that a B average at a top school is equivalent to an A average at a school with an easier grading scale and academics and a less known reputation. That is not quite true. I have seen kids who have actually made the transfer benefit from this difference, my kids being among them. My friend's daughter at Choate Rosemary Hall did well there but the numbers of legacies and developement kids along with the top, top kids there overshadowed her in the college scene. She would have done better staying at her private day school where she had been a top student. Her peers that stayed did end up in more selective schools.

There was an article in the WSJ about Groton, I believe, and how the admissions scenes can be there.

By Emilia (Emilia) on Tuesday, July 20, 2004 - 11:07 pm: Edit

Thank you once more, Admissionsrep, for taking time out of your busy days to answer questions including the many I have already posed.

Marite, thanks for pointing out that the Davidson Institute isn't about Davidson College. You are correct that there are young people awarded quite significant scholarships and awards - those are the Davidson Fellows, and I think there are about a hundred of them total. The Davidson Young Scholars are a larger group and of a more diverse pool; those are the ones that apply to the institute with proof of their ability; the Davidson Institution is truly wonderful in their ability to advocate giftedness, provide these young people with a line of communication to understanding professionals as well as other gifted young people, and if needed, help in funding the person's quest for higher learning. At first, the institute would only accept young people up to age 12 or 13 into the YS program, but now their maximum age of admittance is 16. I joined when I was 15.

So Admissionsrep, I'm guessing you weren't really familiar with DITD (or else just swamped with questions :)), so my reworded question to you would be: is being a member of such a group something that should be mentioned in applications? You replied to me before that coming off as a braggart is definitely not a good thing, and I'm not sure if accepting the label that belonging to such an institution would place upon one is something to feel proud about or not.

By the way Admissionsrep, I suppose I confused you again; there are about 110-150 students in each grade level of the high school I attend, and out of that number, usually about 15 make it through the full-IB program all four years, more than half are in at least one IB class and earn a certificate, and the rest are just in normal level classes. My school actually does have a higher than average rate of those who attempt the diploma to those who receive it.

So thank you again for taking time to respond to us :).

By Marite (Marite) on Tuesday, July 20, 2004 - 11:39 pm: Edit


I would definitely mention your membership in the DITD somewhere in your application. It is definitely a feather in your cap.

By Admissionsrep (Admissionsrep) on Wednesday, July 21, 2004 - 12:03 am: Edit

Emilia, you definitely want to let schools know about your affiliation with the Davidson Institution but, in general, you just want to be careful how you package all of your positives. I can remember many a committee meeting where one person commented that so and so, seems really hung up with themself; you don't want the committee to see you this way. It's easy to avoid this, so it's not a big deal, but you don't just want to come out and say, I'm great, look at me, I'm one of the minority who got an IB diploma. My point was probably axiomatic, but I just wanted to provide a caveat about appearing like you think you "walk on water".

Madness, what I never mentioned in my boarding school list that there ar probably forty other boarding schools (besides the ones that I listed) that I would regard as "first choice schools". In other words, I believe so strongly that choosing a school is all about choosing the best match, as opposed to choosing the school with the most prestige, that if a student says they want the best boarding school education, there are anywhere from 40-55 schools that they should take an initial look at.

St. Mark's is an excellent academic school and your opportunity to get into the college of your choice is JUST as good from a St. Mark's as it is from anywhere else. Also, I believe I listed thirteen schools that I deemed, the most elite boarding schools, but if I had extended that list to 17 schools, St. Mark's would definitely make that list. Once again, I'm just speaking in terms of it's level of prestige. Colleges know that there are over 75 college prep boarding schools, where 100% of the applicants head to college and the average SAT scores are well into the 1200's and above.

Schools will look to what level of rigor a student has taken, and where they rank in their class. While almost all of these schools REFUSE to rank because it is not in their best interest when it comes to college placement, hopefully your school gives a grade distribution which colleges love to see on the school profile. Also, keep in mind that schools are always looking for the kid who was a, "high-impact" player at their boarding school. This is the kid they want on their campus.

I know one of the former admissions officers at Brown, who has since moved on to another ultra selective west coast school. I was talking with him once and he told me that, at Brown, they would routinely receive 120 applications every year from Phillips Andover. He told me that they aren't going to accept more than 20, 25 at most from this 120,no matter how strong the applicant is. It's all about diversity in your feeder schools.

It's a little known secret that you often have a better chance at going to your first choice school from a St. Mark's or the instituition that I work for, because you don't have 50% of your applicants applying to the same top 30 schools.

At Exeter, the IVY overlap is so crazy that they will only allow you to apply to two Ivy's and if you apply to an EA school, there is an understanding that you will go. In other words, they convert EA into ED and everyone knows it. Why would they do this? They don't want an EA accepted kis at an IVY, also getting into other competitive schools and then have their acceptance at the other schools, preclude their students who really want to go to the other schools from getting the thick packet. Basically, they know that schools have quotas on how many of their students they will take. They may not be rigid quotas, but they know that at some point, it's not an issue of, "is this applicant stronger than the others we are looking at from other schools".

I want to say that while I do preliminary college counseling for about two dozen of our students, -in fact I did some today for a student who is looking at Princeton, Brown, Cornell, and Columbia,-I am not a certified college counselor and my expertise is greater when it comes to "things that make a favorable or unfavorable impression on boarding school committees or college adcom's". I have some knowledge, but not as much as many on this board about detailed specifics of certain schools. I don't want you all to think I know more than I really do.

Hope that helps

By Madness (Madness) on Wednesday, July 21, 2004 - 12:27 am: Edit


I know it's stupid of me to be insecure, but my experience at SM was so different from what I imagined boarding school would be like that I have a really low opinion of the place, especially b/c a lot of my friends go to elite places like Exeter and Deerfield, and I'm well aware of the boarding-school "hierarchy." also, we've only had 1 girl go to harvard in the past couple of years -- and she was Jamaica Kincaid's daughter!!! -- and the valedictorian supergenius got rejected from yale...kinda depressing to the rest of us mere mortals, especially when I see the Exeter numbers.

thanks once again!!!!

By Mom101 (Mom101) on Wednesday, July 21, 2004 - 12:43 am: Edit

Madness, what did you imagine that you didn't find at boarding school? Are your friends at the "elite" schools happy in general?

By Madness (Madness) on Wednesday, July 21, 2004 - 12:56 am: Edit

Mom101: I imagined a truly intellectual, cerebral place where it was okay to be nerdy. Not so much. Most people are from "just outside of Boston" & go home every weekend, making for a deserted, depressing campus. Mostly, my friends are happy -- after all, we're getting to grow up before most people, and given incredible freedom -- but there are times when it really gets to be too much. The best thing about prep school are the friends you make. They've preserved my sanity more times than I can count.

By Mom101 (Mom101) on Wednesday, July 21, 2004 - 01:12 am: Edit

We choose a 100% boarding school to avoid the kids that go home versus those that don't, but I hadn't even thought about weekends....

By Admissionsrep (Admissionsrep) on Wednesday, July 21, 2004 - 01:45 am: Edit

Madness, one thing that you have to realize is how many alumni from Harvard, and Yale go to Exeter, Andover and Milton. As you probably know, Milton and Exeter were basically founded as feeders to Harvard and Andover was a Yale feeder.

I lost a kid I liked quite a bit to St. Mark's this year; he wanted the more formal attire that they provided, but I learned something about their current head of school that I thought was rather disturbing. I am not sure I'm sold on St. Mark's, but I don't know enough to really have an informed opinion.

I have another friend who does admissions at one of these elite schools and he often shares with me that we basically are out selling a mirage. What he meant, was that people come in droves to us because of our college list, but what they don't know is how many of our kids get into these schools because they have alumni connections.

Also, keep in mind just how selective Exeter, Andover, St. Paul's and Deerfield are. I compete with these schools on a regular basis and I'm thrilled to yield a kid when I compete head to head with these schools and I am at a selective school where almost 25% of our matriculants tested in the 90-99 percentile in the Independant pool population. This is equivalent to 99th percentile nationally.

What always amazes me about these schools is, just who they deny. I have seen some kids we would regard as stars, who Andover, Exeter, St. Paul's and Deerfield turn down. Andover particularily can be brutal to get into, so you have to realize that probably only 15% of St. Mark's student body or the student body at my school, would get accepted at Andover or Exeter. Now, these schools get between 25% to 30% into the IVY's. If we do the math, .15 x .30 =4.5%. I know it's not that simple, but trust me the reason for their great college lists has more to do with the caliber of their applicant pool and their alumni connections.

Groton has the highest percentage of students who go IVY, in the boarding school world, but that is because they have over 90% of their kids who go ED; it's the culture of the school to go ED.

Mom, if you chose a 100% boarding school, you are starting to tell me where you went. I would say that you either went to St. Paul's, St. Andrews, Episcopal, or Woodberry Forrest. I know there are a couple others, but schools like Grier don't get the applicants that that the schools I just mentioned get. By the way, my school requires boarding in the last two years, and we are one of only four coed college prep schools that have this requirement. St. Andrews, Episcopal and St. Paul's would be the others.

I didn't realize there was so much interest in college prep boarding schools on this website. I enjoy talking about the boarding school scene and I am happy to help in any way I can, but there is so much collective wisdom on this site, that I love what I am learning from everyone elses posts.

By Mom101 (Mom101) on Wednesday, July 21, 2004 - 02:05 am: Edit

Not a secret, we chose St. Paul's. My daughter got into Andover too and it was a tough decision for her (though SPS was my clear favorite). There is interest because there are so few sources of information. Maybe it's time for someone like you to write a book. I feel I was under-informed looking back. Although my daughter went to an excellent private day, it's not the culture here to apply to boarding school. The school was no help at all. We had only BSR and some friends back East for advice. We didn't even consider anything other than the elites thinking that the tradeoff of her being away would only be worth it for those. I know now that that isn't the case and I do wonder what we would have found had we looked further.

By Admissionsrep (Admissionsrep) on Wednesday, July 21, 2004 - 02:51 am: Edit

Mom, I went head to head with SPS on four applicants this year; we lost three and we won on one. Is your daughter going next year or is she a freshman this year? BSR has only been up and running since May of 03, so I know that she is either a frosh or an 04-05 matriculant.

You can't get a better endowment to student ratio then you get at SPS. The facilities at that place are off the charts. You have to be careful with how they define success in monetary and prestige terms. I guess I'm from the, "do what you love, and help a lot of people and you will have a happy fulfilling life" philosophy and I'm not sure you will get a lot of that there. SPS can also be a tough place in terms of the amount of pressure and stress that young teens feel given the competitive culture that exists there. I know about ten SPS alums and eight or nine of them would have picked SPS again if they had to make their decision all over again. It really depends on what each family feels is the best environment for their child.

If your daughter is an 04-05 matriculant, and if she is a freshman, I'm sure she will get to know John McClure and Rossmery Perralta. These are two kids, both from the Bronx who broke my heart by chosing SPS. If she is a new junior, she will get to know Ike Perkins (from California) another great kid who broke our hearts. The advantage of selective admissions is that the quality of the students around you can be awesome. Having said that, people need to look more at history, culture, values and philosophy when picking a school.

My school is a great match for me because if someone wants to be an actor, teacher, musician, artist, etc, they are made to feel successful if that is truly their passion. Of course, most pursue law, medicine, engineering, teaching and more traditional prestigious careers, but my biggest challenge in admissions is getting families to look at how school idealogy and school culture impact child development.

Thanks for your kind words about the need to write a book. I agree that there is very little info out there. I've actually had discussions with some experienced admissons professionals, about each of us writing a chapter on a different subject and composing a book. It's probably 5-10 years down the road. I read everything I could get my hands on because I started at my school as a parent first. "Preparing for Power" was a great read, but this book is 20 years old.

By Cfunkexonian (Cfunkexonian) on Wednesday, July 21, 2004 - 04:55 am: Edit

This is a very interesting thread and I appreciate all the thought and care you place into your messages. I'm a rising upper (11th grader) at Exeter and I read your post about Exeter only allowing students to apply to 2 Ivy League schools. You know a lot more about the college scene than I do, but can you tell me where you got this information? In my dorm we have something called the "Wall of Shame" where all of the seniors hang their college rejection letters on a wall. Frequently we have one person rejected to four of five Ivy League Schools (HYP are the usual suspects). So do you mean that applying to more than 2 Ivies is strongly discouraged, or completely prohibited? Also, what else can you tell me about college counseling at Exeter? (I get assigned a counselor this January)

By Dke (Dke) on Wednesday, July 21, 2004 - 11:34 am: Edit

Admissionsrep...does Woodberry Forest have a decent reputation? Alums have good things to say...but what's it's current rep?

By Jamimom (Jamimom) on Wednesday, July 21, 2004 - 11:42 am: Edit

Some of the adcoms at the selective schools "know" the college counselors at some of the boarding, prep, private and public highschools. This in itself is a natural thing and inevitable when you are talking about a schools that work with an overlap of kids each year. The more kids who apply/matriculate at a particular college over time, the more likely the counselors know each other. These schools are targeted for for adcom visits and talks. A high priority for all colleges is a high yield and just because USNWR has eliminated that figure from its rankings does not make it any less important. And the only way you get the yield is with the numbers. That is the reason adcoms visit the the boarding schools and the highschools with high socio economics. Though they may talk diversity and disadvantaged, their job security is really based on yield.

The relationship goes further than that in many cases, as the counselors get to know each other for years or from years. The book "The Gatekeepers" well demonstrated such a relationship. A recent NYT article related how colleges are going to the point of setting up "recruiting " type trips for highschool college counselors throwing in perks that are questionable in propriety.

The thing that makes the biggest difference and is the least quantifiable is the "pillow talk". And there does not have to be any pillow involved. That is when info is shared about the candidate that impacts decisions because of the relationship between the counselors. And the extent and propriety of this info is unknown because because it is "off record". There is a famous former adcom who wrote an admissions book that I cannot recall at the moment where he laments how parents would act like he were the one that could flick some magic switch and assign their kids to HPY or other school, and what a cockeyed thought that is. Well, it is not such a cockeyed thought all of the time. There is some interaction there. And it is not always favorable.

Yeah, you might get in because the counselor really wants to get you into Dartmouth and he is old college friends with the adcom there and they also still exchange Christmas cards and do college business together. But you can just as likely be dealing with two people without a good relationship, that may despise each other and have issues with the way they do business. Also your counselor may let info "leak" that does not do you any favor. The street runs both ways. Kids in a large impersonal school often get away with murder in the admissions process without a counselor running interference. No rap sheep, no comments on some issues that should be touched upon and would be in a prep school environment, breaking rules like crazy (you would shudder if I told you about the multiple single choice EA/Ed rules violated and ED pacts ignored and multiple acceptances on the part of the students) Cuz the counselor simply does not track what is going on, the kid can do whatever. Not so in the prep schools where every piece of paper may be examined and discussed, and every rec is carefully worded and planned. There may well be mention about your personality and exploits that would not be brought up in a more inpersonal setting. So there are tradeoffs.

I will recount that I am nearly sure that one young lady I know was deferred and waitlisted by BC because of off record info from her college counselor at her private school. She was a top student who did get into several schools, but what happened still sticks in my craw and her family's. The school tend to have many apps to BC and many kids do end up going there including some with borderline profiles. I would say that if you are really hot to go to BC and are borderline, you may have a better chance getting in going to that school than most. But this young lady had many options and was also applying ED to Duke and had an eye on an ivy as well. I believe that her counselor did not feel that BC was not her top choice (which it was not) and felt she would get into a school she preferred over BC and imparted this information to BC. Well, the problem with that is that in order to be considered for the merit awards at BC you must be accepted EA which she was not. Also, the family had an extremely glum Christmas and a tense 4 months thereafter, as she was not only defered at Duke but at BC as well when other less qualified kids from her school were celebrating their BC admissions and kids like her at other schools had their pressure released considerably (like my son) with BC in their pocket early in the season, a great advantage of EA or rolling admissions.

The next great shock came when the big news in spring brought a rejection and two waitlists including BC. At this point the parents were upset enough to confront the school counselor who said that if things continued to go south and BC turned out to be the girl's top choice, he was sure to be able to get her off of the waitlist. That pretty much confirmed to me what I suspected about unwarrented intervention that put the girl on the deferred and waitlis status. Now the problem with what happened is that you can never be 100% sure what will occur. Either counselor could drop dead (a morbid thought, but I have seen things like this happen in other venues), things could change, BC could have a banner year and someone could shut and lock the doors on admissions, without thought to some one on the adcom. The adcom could get into some disput with the college and leave, the kid could have an issue with her school that would change her profile and desireability, etc, etc. Lots of possibilities here, making that bird in hand so much valuable than the one in the bush.

She did get into two schools that she liked with merit awards and ended up going to one. Had she gotten into BC, she might have gone there and her parents really preferred BC for a number of reasons. It is on a direct train route, a lot of people the family knows go there, they are Catholic, they love Boston and the schools where their daughter is going necessitates a plane trip each time and is really an unknown to the family. Also much fewer people from the area go there. One great thing about having some kids in your area at the same college as your kid is the carpooling and other messenger activity. Many times I have sent cookies, meals, goodies, items via this route while my son was at his college and I could not go as often as I would like.

I am digressing from my point which is that it is really a crapshoot as to what school would be the most advantageous to any given student for admissions to any given school. You are at St. Mark's and there is no point in wasting energy with "what if" as you are going into your senior year.

I have also noticed that some top prep schools are noticeably deficient in the number of kids going to a particular school or other that makes no sense. For example, a few years ago the 5 year historical placement for Choate to Dartmouth was really low. Some of the top NYC magnet schools were just placing kids in Princeton. You never know what is really going on in these cases. There could be a college to highschool issue going on that affects the candidates; maybe even as personal as adcom to counselor. It is really the luck of the draw as to whether you end up in the middle of some grudge.

Also the adcoms I know are some old battle axes like me but who have spent their lives working in various adminstrative departments of colleges and are not even paid what it costs to go to the school where they work. Yes, they look for demonstrated interest, and look for the personality in each candidate but they are also very sensitive to insincerity and obsequious candidates. Few 17-19 year olds can come across as sincere when they are not. People who have been dealing with admissions and college kids for over 20 year and have raised some kids of their own have seen it all. They are pragmatic and are interested in being fair and getting the school the class it wants. They can smell a gimmick, hear the breathing of mom and dad in the background giving the cues, they know the handiwork of a polished hired gun. Few kids are auto one read admits and one of these oldtimers will likely read the file and give input. I truly feel sincerety and honesty is the best way to go.

By Interesteddad (Interesteddad) on Wednesday, July 21, 2004 - 12:32 pm: Edit


My hunch is that subtle clues in recommendation letters impact the outcome of applications more than most people would ever imagine.

On the sincerity and honesty: I also have a strong hunch that being "pretentious" in the application is probably the kiss of death. I cringe at the presentation of some "resumes" here because everything has a patina of being "puffed up" to be impressive. My strong suspicion is that it is better to undersell than oversell, especially in the essays. That's why I tend to favor "nice, little essays" describing a specfic event with modest believable conclusions over ponderous tombs with grand sweeping themes. I particularly detest the "Greek Tragedy personal life story essays" because that kind of deep introspection simply doesn't represent the mindset of a normal, well-adjusted 17 year old.

I think the "old battleaxe" pros in the admissions offices are looking for applicants who come across as authentic 17 year old kids with a youthful spark and a little initiative. To me, the "stat war" aspect of the postings in this forum and the war stories about admissions does a bit of a disservice to the vast majority of normal bright high school kids. For example, the questions "How many community service hours is enough" or "my school only offers 12 APs, should I take college courses, too" are wide of the mark by a country mile.

By Delacroix (Delacroix) on Wednesday, July 21, 2004 - 01:01 pm: Edit

Admissionsrep: I just had a couple more questions about the supplementary materials. I'm going to send in both an instrumental recording (piano) and an art portolio. I was wondering, you said ad coms should be "impressed" when they hear or see the materials. I'm just wondering how perfect or musically interpretive a piece has to be in recording to constitute "impressive." I've won like a few state competitions and gone to a couple of divisional (midwest) contests. However, it is still difficult to play a flawless performance if one is playing an extremely difficult and long piece. Sould you suggest playing a very difficult piece while risking a couple of technical mistakes, or going with an easier piece which wouldn't be hard to play perfectly (assuming both will be played with musicality)? Also, Yale's app this year says one can include a research abstract. I did some research w/ a university in Plant Pathology and came up with some results...should I include the abstract I had in my research poster?

By Mom101 (Mom101) on Wednesday, July 21, 2004 - 01:10 pm: Edit

Do others agree with Interstatedad? Reading these boards you start to believe your kid doesn't have a chance at top schools unless she's willing to be tragic, mother Theresa or achieve international fame. My daughter got into the top boarding schools by just presenting good grades, scores and recs saying she was a nice, hard working good student. Does anyone know anyone who got into HYPS for being those things?

Cfunk, I don't think it's just Exeter that discourages multiple ivy applications. All of the top prep schools try to manage the process. An amazingly high percentage at all apply ED. There is arm twisting to keep a focus, often at the schools where you are a legacy. I think the number of legacies is very high at most. I kind of wonder if the prep schools consider this in admissions decisions. I can see them looking at a candidate like my daughter, a legacy at 2 top schools, and thinking, oh, with these scores now and legacy status, this kid is a good bet to land another ivy on our list.

Admissionsrep, my daughter will be a freshmen this fall. Your comment about school philosophy gave me pause. I guess my perception has been that with all of the endowment money for aid, there will be more middle class kids with broader thinking. My daughter has gone to private days in towns like Greenwich CT and Palo Alto, where the vast majority of kids are from investment banking families and the like. I was hoping for diversity!

By Mom101 (Mom101) on Wednesday, July 21, 2004 - 01:29 pm: Edit

And admissionsrep, I did a very thorough search and read all of the prep school books, many very old. There is nothing that to guide parents in the present. You should write the book along with BSR.

By Jamimom (Jamimom) on Wednesday, July 21, 2004 - 01:59 pm: Edit

When a top student applies to a dozen top schools, he can still only go to one. That puts the highschool in the possible situation of having a student turn down 11 top colleges. Multiply that by the number of students these schools have that are applying to the same schools and you have a mass rejection situation. In order to maintain a relationship with these colleges, some of these adcoms "leak" info about the prospects. One of the leaks might be whether a particular school is really on a kids radar screen. By being forthright and informative about the select group of kids, a few more borderline admits might be garnered. Limiting apps is one way of controlling the situation and steering kids to match schools and vice versa. You have to remember that your child is only one blip on the screen. There are many kids in the school's history and many more to come. The whole of the process and future is more the concern of the school than the college prospects of any individual child.

A benefit of going to these prep school, that I have not mentioned in any of my posts, is that sometimes an untagged app may have a better chance getting into a top school just by the relationship. In a high school where only a child or two every so many years goes to a given ivy, there is not much concern about the politics of who that one child may be. One year there was an issue at a school where the valedictorian and other student were not accepted to Harvard with excellent stats and a sterling resume while a student who was URM with a much less impressive profle was accepted. This cause a lot of ill will in the school community. In a prep school, there might have been some mitagation of that situation where, the counselor might just get that valedictorian in on the coattails of the URM that the adcoms want. They would have had input during the process to head off the most blatant of these situations. So if your kids is pretty obviously 4th in a list of 9 kids applying to a given school and numbers 6 and 8 are accepted due to some internal tag or tip, there is some likelihood that you could get in as well with a counselor fighting for you. In a school without any relationship these situations happen all of the time. They happen at the preps as well, but there is at least a possibility at certain schools, some negotiation can be done. I know at S's school this year, there are two RD acceptances to Yale that were deferred from the ED round and that the counselors fought hard for those kids. There were internal equity issues involved. I also know of a waitlist accept from Duke a couple of years ago after deferal from Ed and again, the counselors were really at bat for this kid. Again kids had been accepted at Duke that were not as high on the academic pecking order, and there was a battle for some equity fought.

But any guidance counselor worth his salt will point out the legacy and ED advantages to a kid. They do exist and they would be remiss not to explain the situation. I have heard of kids who missed the boat for Penn as legacies, that did not want to go ED. When they thought things over and decided that Penn might be their best choice, they did not get in RD. In some cases, it was just a deliberate choice at the time, but in a few cases, the highschool counselor did not bring up the ED and legacy situation which I feel is remiss. BUt at those particular schools, there is not a big rush for Penn, and not many legacies. The big focus is the flagship state school and for many public school counselors that is their mark of excellence: how many kids they can get into State U in a given year. And that battle is getting tougher each year as well. I always say that a public highschool guidance counselor is generally the best source of infor for applying to the state system as he would have had the most experience in kids from that particular school applying to State U with a matrix of qualifications. The prep schools are not always that proficient in that quarter. The class rank requirement can often handicap those wanting to get into their state schools from a private school that just does not rank.

By Emptynester (Emptynester) on Wednesday, July 21, 2004 - 02:06 pm: Edit

Emilia, FWIW: this is how one of my kids dealt with the supplemental materials issue.

Student included a college research paper, in area of intended major, marked with over the top praise by the professor. I am sure no one read more than the title and the prof's comments. Good luck!

Essays became a bit of a conflict. Student was allowed to be as pedantic as he chose on the "why this school" essay which mentioned intended coursework and specific instructors including their research. We were concerned that some might question whether these essays were actually written by a high school junior, so we insisted the main essay be rewritten to be a "nice little essay" in a more colloquial style with the hope he sounded as much like a "regular" teenager as possible. I do not know if the informal essay was really useful. Professors he had never met, but had mentioned in the "why this school" essay called him to talk about their departments. But the adcom had to pass the application info on to those profs.

Like Interesteddad points out, we were concerned with the "pretentious" factor and tried to avoid it by having the bragging done by recs and basic stats rather than in the student's own voice. And though we tried to help with the packaging of the application we did not try to present the student as other than he is.. because we thought either the school would really want him and accomodate his interests or it wouldn't be a good place for him to be.

By Interesteddad (Interesteddad) on Wednesday, July 21, 2004 - 03:20 pm: Edit

>> Do others agree with Interstatedad?

MOM101: Just to be perfectly clear. I believe there are HYPSM and then there are top colleges. IMO, the high yield percentages at HYPSM make give these five specific schools an aberational admissions rate and, therefore, a particularly bad admissions "value" (odds of admission divided by academic quality).

The impact of the yield is easy to understand. A normal "top college" must send 2 to 3 acceptance letters to fill each slot in the freshman class. Harvard sends 1.2 acceptance letter to fill each freshman slot. If you are waiting by the mailbox for an acceptance letter, these are two very different scenarios.

To use my favorite analogy (car shopping), HYPSM are like the car dealer who has a hot model charging a 50% premium over sticker price. This is not a rational market for the buyer when an equally good car is at the dealer next door selling for sticker price. I really think a lot more "car buyers" need to stop and think why they want to stand in line to pay 50% over sticker price.

By Jamimom (Jamimom) on Wednesday, July 21, 2004 - 03:36 pm: Edit

The problem with the car analogy is that you will eventually get that hot model if you pay the 50% premium. With the top colleges, there is absolutely no ensurance that you will get in even with the heart and effort you put into your life, academic and application.

By Interesteddad (Interesteddad) on Wednesday, July 21, 2004 - 03:47 pm: Edit

Right. That's why I say that HYPSM are notably poor "admissions values".

Unless there is a specific "plus" on the application, HYPSM really must be viewed as an extreme long shot, something to keep on the backburner as a "what if" while building the real college list. Unfortunately, a lot of students and parents don't have a realistic view.

By Mom101 (Mom101) on Wednesday, July 21, 2004 - 03:50 pm: Edit

I'm really hoping that my kids will get over the HYPS hype before it's time to apply.

By Admissionsrep (Admissionsrep) on Wednesday, July 21, 2004 - 04:07 pm: Edit


I first learned about Exeter only allowing applicants to apply to 2 schools, in the book, "The Early Admissions Game". I then asked one of our faculty members who is an Exonian, and he told me that this constraint was in effect when he was there (10-12 yrs ago). I'm not sure if this policy is firm or highly suggested.

You may want to read the section of the Early Admissions game that talks about this. The chapter mentions many other NYC competitive day schools (like Horace Mann) that also have this approach. The book was released in the last two years and appears to be very well documented; I took them at their word. It would be great if you could read what they say and investigate and see if they are correct.

I will have more to say about the other questions and comments later today.

By Madness (Madness) on Wednesday, July 21, 2004 - 04:21 pm: Edit

"But any guidance counselor worth his salt will point out the legacy and ED advantages to a kid. They do exist and they would be remiss not to explain the situation. I have heard of kids who missed the boat for Penn as legacies, that did not want to go ED. When they thought things over and decided that Penn might be their best choice, they did not get in RD."

So do you agree that, if my goal is to get into the best school I possibly can, then I should apply ED to Dartmouth if I have legacy status? Maybe it's not my clear first-choice school, but I'd certainly be happy there.

By Interesteddad (Interesteddad) on Wednesday, July 21, 2004 - 06:18 pm: Edit

>> So do you agree that, if my goal is to get into the best school I possibly can, then I should apply ED to Dartmouth if I have legacy status? Maybe it's not my clear first-choice school, but I'd certainly be happy there.

I would agree that you should certainly consider that option. I can't say that you SHOULD do that because those have to be personal decisions.

My daughter applied to one ultra-competitive LAC ED instead of another ultra-competitive LAC where she had a double legacy. She and I discussed exactly your scenario; however, the fit at her ED choice was so obviously better for her that there wasn't much to discuss. But, had she not felt so strongly, her decision might well have been different. After reading "The Gatekeepers", she was quite aware of the strategic aspect of the admissions game.

By Jamimom (Jamimom) on Wednesday, July 21, 2004 - 06:28 pm: Edit

Madness, if you really do not like the atmosphere in New England, dislike the cold, want to get out of this environment and are only applying to Dartmouth because it is the highest ranked school where you have the best shot of getting accepted, and you are trying to please your parents to boot, then you are going down the wrong path. If you have always loved the idea of going to Dartmouth, felt at home when visiting with your parents, feeling that this is the best choice for you, then apply ED there. Yes, you have a shot at Dartmouth, given the advantages listed before. But you are no sure "in". There is a thread on these boards of a Princeton legacy with killer stats who did not get into Princeton leaving his friend wondering what went wrong. It could just well be that the legacy pool had some strong contenders that year and he did not stand out enough to get in. It happens. It can happen to you.

If you are ambivalent about the school, it will come out int the interview, essays, apps and style. Dartmouth is pretty thorough in its app. You need to go take a visit and meet some of the adcoms, reaffirm why you want to go there. You are not going to be an auto admit.

You also need to draw up your list of other schools that you like. If you are finding the southern and western schools more to your liking and you really detest New England, you do need to rethink what you want.

By Rileymom (Rileymom) on Wednesday, July 21, 2004 - 06:42 pm: Edit

admissionsrep - thanks so much for the informed responses

My son has some Bs in Honors classes - he is in a very competitive, small (160 juniors this year), public school that is sending 7 seniors to Ivies and most to very good schools. He plays two varsity sports, both of which take up a huge amount of time. He is not good enough to be recruited and plays because sports are important here, and, he loves playing. Is there any consideration with those thin envelopes for the studentís time spent in sports? His LAX coach was very demanding and he was also involved in many other activities. I did not want him to stick with the sports but he desperately wanted to keep playing, which I believe was a bad decision as it was impossible to always have enough time for everything.

Also, because of the size, the same teachers often teach two years in a row. The English Honors teacher has whittled her class to 9 each year by announcing that she only gives two As, and indeed she only gives two As. My son loved her (and he loves English) and signed up again for his junior honors English - with B+ each year - we always assumed a B in Honors or AP would be better than chickening out! Thoughts? How on earth can the admissions officers really know the level of the classes by schools?

By Admissionsrep (Admissionsrep) on Wednesday, July 21, 2004 - 08:02 pm: Edit

Man, this thread is hopping, I'm going to respond to the last ten or so posts.

Cfunk: I don't know enough about Exeter to comment on how good their college counseling is, but I will tell you what I do know. College counseling is so paramount to a prep school like Exeter's mission, and it is so requisite for parents expectations to even remotely be pleased, that I would be shocked if Exeter does not have first class college counseling.

I have spoken to one Exeter alum about the counseling he received there and he was very pleased. Some of the frustrations that he shared with me were: how legacies who were underqualified, leaped over more qualified applicants. According to him, this was rampant and it was a source of continual frustration amongst students. We know that this is not necessarily something that the counselors control or endorse.

Exeter does a good job of advocating that students write a "first choice letter" to the school that has emerged as their genuine first choice, for students who don't decide to choose early decision. This Exonian (who currently teaches at our school) told me that Exeter is not the path to Harvard. He said, don't be deceived by the number of admits to Harvard. You should see how many amazing kids they turn down.

This teacher at our school went from Exeter to Brown and he believes his first choice letter tipped the scales his way. These letters let you demonstrate interest, which impacts yield, but you have four more months to think about your decision.

You also get a chance to compare aid offers, if that is important. These letters are not as powerful as an ED app, but they are a very underutilized tool that accomplish a good bit of what ED does sans the ED drawbacks.

DK-Woodberry Forrest has a good reputation for someone looking for an all boys school. They have a great endowment to student ratio, which is an important stat that is usually overlooked.

Their requirement that a student board all four years gives them a very close knit community. The school has a reputation for lacking diversity especially with Hispanics, but the administration is making aggresive efforts to change that. I had a phone conversation today with a school that told me that Woodberry is rolling out the red carpet to increase their diversity. I had a similar conversation about two months ago with a well known diversity feeder school for prep schools; the contact at this school was blown away by the package WF was offering for low income Hispanics.

One thing that all boarding schools outside of New England suffer from, is the perception that anything south of NY is not the real deal. I met with a placement director of a high powered, Upper East side school and he told me in no uncertain terms our families rarely look south of the Hudson River.

From a prestige standpoint, south of New York, there is Lawrenceville and everyone else. When you look at a school like St. Andrews in Delaware, you see a school that is every bit as good as any top 5 boarding school, but it is in Delaware; I know the folks real well at that great school and they have a hard time yielding applicants when they compete against schools that clearly provide an inferior education to St. Andrews.

It's a lot like the college scene: everyone knows that schools like Grinnell, Carelton, Kenyon, Oberlin, MacAlster, Reed, Pomona, Davidson and several others, would rival Amherst and Williams if they were in New England. Woodberry suffers from that.

The other thing that is a challenge for WF, is that most boys want a coed school. This is the reason why there are only three all boys colleges these days. On the other hand, with the Hill school going coed, WF almost has a unique niche all to itself these days.

Jamimom-I totally agree with you on most everything you said. Yield will always matter for several reasons: Schools like to be able to shape their classes and they do that best when they have their first choice students enroll. Also, a high yield furthers the perception of greater selectivity; which in turn drives applicant flow, assists in raising money and attracts quality faculty.

Jam made a great point about Pillow talk between the counselor and the schools admissions reps. I am the one who often hosts the dinner sessions and panel discussions with the college admissions reps at our school.

The more aggressive reps are pumping me for info and even the more passive ones, really take note when I tell them a nugget about a particular kid.

People don't realize how much power the counselor has. Another great tip that I give to our students, is to get to know our lead counselor very well. Students in a boarding environment should set up lunch appts with the counselor several times a year.

Schools are on the phone discussing the pool of applicants to their school. Schools often try to get the counselor to tell them which of these kids will come if we accept. As a boarding school rep, I often have this conversation with the placement directors of the K-8 independants which serve as our primary feeders. I discuss each applicant from their school in the pool and my experience is that the schools are very candid with me because they know their word is their bond.

One placement director told me this year that you can screw someone one time in this business-she was referring to not shooting straight with a boarding school about an applicant-and you are cooked. Counselors know that they build trust and make it easier for their kids to get placed in future years if they are open and honest when they are asked probing questions.

I also agree that admission reps are adept at telling when an applicant is being disingenius. When you do things like, write "first choice letters" and other gimmicks, you better be speaking from the heart. This is an integrity issue.

I will respond to posts from: Delacroix, Mom, Jam, Interesteddad, and Madness later this evening.

By Madness (Madness) on Wednesday, July 21, 2004 - 09:03 pm: Edit

Jamimom, Interesteddad, and Admissionsrep: thanks again!!

I can't believe I'm getting so stressed about this process so early,'s collegeconfidential, full of stressed-out people. Also, I just can't WAIT for this all to be over -- one of the reasons I'm so focused on ED. My friend and I were thinking that, if all goes well, by this time in December, we should be completely done w/ everything and ready to enjoy our senior year!

By Admissionsrep (Admissionsrep) on Thursday, July 22, 2004 - 02:17 am: Edit

Delecroix: You've asked a very subjective question when you ask, how impressive should extra supplemental material be in order to warrant submitting it. You need to just realize that adcom reps are very busy and I would say, that your materials need to be impressive enough that a busy adm rep, says to himself or herself, even that I'm busy, I'm glad they submitted this material because I've learned about a strength that this applicant has, that I didn't know before they submitted this material. I know it's subjective, but that's the best I can do with that one.

You ask if you should also submit a research abstract at Yale? I would only submit one or the other, but others may disagree with me. Reps resent applicants being insensitive to their time. I recall one rep from Brown telling me how frustrating it was to go from reading 1100 apps to 1250 apps the next year. He had no additional help and no extra time. It sounds like your if you won a few state competitions, you are talented enough to submit this material w/o wondering if it will backfire on you.

Mom, you are correct when you say that counselors will often look at their students and figure out which ones can land at the most elite schools; once they make that decision, they will work to make that happen. Remember, some counselors are under a lot of pressure to deliver brand name schools or lose their job. It's rarely put that bluntly, but their are subtle and not so subtle messages that they receive that let them know what is expected of them.

I know of an elite day school in our area where they have one counselor for IVY league kids, and one counselor for everyone else. They start their college process in the 9th grade, so very early in their process they are steering some kids toward some schools, and steering some kids away from those same schools.

Mom, you will be very pleased with the amount of racial, ethnic and socio-economic diversity at SPS compared to Palo Alto and Greenwich.

I probably wasn't very lucid in my email, but I was referring to a lack of diversity in mindset: more specifically, I mean that the culture at SPS, Groton, Exeter, Andover and the other elites, often is that HYPS admission defines who the true winners are.

I may share an Andover story about this at another time.

This can put a lot of pressure on a kid, but there is a great antidote for this that will allow your child to get all the priviledges of an elite education w/o this drawback.

What you need to do is truly believe in your mind that your child is a success if she picks the place that she feels most comfortable with.

If you truly believe that you will be happy if your child picks a school that provides a great education, but lacks brand name status, not only will she pick up this attitude, but you will liberate her from massive amounts of stress that students at an elite school like SPS feel. She will love you more because your unconditional love with be juxtaposed with the pressure that some parents put on their kids.

If you want to read a great novel that speaks of this parent pressure, read "All Loves Excelling"; it is written by Lawrenceville's former Head of school, in response to what he observed all too many times.

I have to share one story here that is very tragic. We had a great International student who felt intense pressure from his dad to get into Harvard. All he would talk about was Harvard, Harvard, Harvard. Well, he ended up going to Swarthmore and making a big splash there, but in his dads eyes, Swarthmore may as well be a community college. In his dads circle of International friends, Swat had no cachet. This student was constantly telling showing his dad USNWR's great ranking for Swat, but to no avail.

The clincher was when his dad visited Swat; his son thought that his dad was really growing to respect Swat, but then out of the blue, his dad said, son, this is a pretty good school, I bet you have a good chance of transferring to Harvard next year from this place. Well, obviously this is an extreme case, but you get the drift.

There is such a temptation to see our children as trophies who enhance our status in our own circles. Or, there is the misplaced belief that if my child doesn't go to XYZ school, they are going to be falling behind in the rat race. Take a look at the of the top up and coming 40 attorneys a few years ago: I am told by a judge in our area (whose daughter attended our school and picked Duke over an IVY option) that only 6 went IVY. As parents we need to relax and realize that who we are will matter 10X as much as where we go to school.

Mom: You asked if prep schools look at legacies in their admissions process. Yes they look at this and weigh this about as much as colleges do, but in some ways they give an even greater tipping factor to legacies.

The fact that boarding schools are such small, tight knit communities, means that boarding schools often will give a sibling more weight than a college will. Of course, legacies are denied all the time, but like URM's, development cases, talented athletes, full pay families, and geographical diversity, these factors often makes the difference between who gets in and who gets denied.

Mom, as competitive as SPS, Deerfield, Exeter, Groton, and Andover are, you can't compare their level of selectivity to HYPS. Remember, less than 1% of kids consider boarding schools, but every valedictorian at every high school, knows the names HYPS.

Mom, I will give you an example of what I am talking about from the school your daughter is attending that happened THIS YEAR. One of the students at SPS, who graduated in the top 15% (and maybe top 10%)in his class, with SAT's in the mid 1400's, was denied by Middlebury, Vassar, and every other selective school he applied to. His best option ended up being St. Lawrence. He was shocked when I met with him and the placement director of the feeder school that he came from two months ago. The school he came from sends more kids to SPS and my school than any other school. Obviously, he suffered from the hooked applicants in the SPS pool, a rookie college counselor, and the number of applicants at SPS who apply to elites.

Madness, don't obsess over these schools, convince yourself that hard work, and picking a school and major that are a good fit, are much more important than going to HYPS or any brand name school for that matter. You should convince yourself of this because it's the truth.

Mom, by the way, if I were you I would also pick SPS over Andover. Nothing against Andover, it's a great school, but 550 kids is a whole different environment than 1200 for a 14 year old. Every kid is different and Andover is great for some kids as well, but rare is the 14 year old who can handle that amount of freedom. I know a perfect match for Andover; and she is going there this year, but I don't meet that many 14 year old as mature as she is. She could be a college junior at age 14.

Jam makes a couple more good points that I'd like to talk about. It can definitely be easier for a kid at a boarding school to get into an IVY when he or she is only competing against two or three kids versus a school where 25% or more of the class is applying to the same school. I told you about how 50% of the kids at one of the ultra elites (I will withhold the name of the school here) applied to Brown. If you don't have a hook, you are going to have to be awfully impressive in that applicant pool.

We had a black male who transferred from our school to one of the boarding school elites a few years ago. The kid transferred because the parents said that we weren't getting enough kids into Harvard. The last two years our valedictorian has gone to Harvard, but we had a drought before that. This was a professional full pay family that was obsessed with Harvard. Internally, in our counseling office, we said that, this family doesn't realize that it will be easier to get into Harvard from our school than it will be from Andover because of the number of applicants that apply to Harvard. As it turns out, the dad took a job at Harvard as a research physician, so I'm sure he will sail in. He is an alumni kid, a URM, a faculty kid, and bright as a whip, but the family moved over this issue and it wasn't necessary.

Now, I am going to say something that is going to directly contradict what I just said, but it reinforces what Jam said about how you never know what factors are at work when a school has a poor placement record with a particular school.

A few years ago, we received a call letting us know that the local Harvard alum who was conducting our Harvard interviews, vowed that he will never endorse a student from our school for Harvard. He confided in someone he knew that he was miffed that we never accepted his sisters kid and he will get us back by not endorsing our kids.

Well, you can imagine how we reacted to this news. We called Harvard and told them what we had been told, from what we regarded as a credible source. They refused profusely and told us that this alum would never do Harvard interviews again. It is an example of how arbitrary it can be when you try to discern why some schools have a hard time placing with another school.

Interestedad, I totally agree that people need to realize that HYPS are almost never to be perceived as probables. I know the kid I described above defies that, but who among us has the hooks that kid has. Harvard is known for looking for that special form of excellence that is rare; being a valedictorian is just being generic in the Harvard applicant ppol.

The main point I want to agree with Interestedad about, is his assertion that parents need to realize how unrealistic it is to expect to get into these schools.

ONe quick story here and I will end this response. We once had a kid who was a supertalented actor, who came to us with great references. In the interview, mom told me that she wanted her daughter to go to Yale because of their great drama program. The daughter had been home schooled for six years, and anyone who has dealt with homeschooled kids knows, they run the gamut from brilliantly prepared to totally ignored. We interview prior to receiving testing and when the testing came back, we kid was functioning at the 4th and 5th grade levels in some important areas. Obviously, a clear deny, but yet this mom mentioned the YALE world.

There are at least ten other instances where I've had parents mention that their expectations are HYP and we either denied the kid or they barely squeaked in because of some hook.

I am beginning to wonder if I am sharing too many specifics in my responses. If one person uses any of the info I have shared inappropriately, I am going to have to become ultra vague when it comes to mentioning the specific schools I am referring to.

Finally, I just thought of a way I can help serve this community in the fall. I will meet with probably 40-50 different college reps when they visit the school. I am not sure which schools are visiting this year. Our area has so many privates that HPS meet in local areas, in forums where multiple private schools are invited, but usually the rest of the IVY league and the majority of top LAC's come at least every other year. Yale comes every other year to visit us doing recruitment travel. Anyway, as we move into the busy season, I will try to ask specific school reps questions that members of this board will have.

The one conflicting factor here is that my own travel schedule is going to be twice as hectic this year as it was last year. I will be on the road a ridiculous amount from Sept 15th until Oct 25th, but when I am at school, I will try to take the questions that this board has, directly to the reps themselves. It's hard to get more current info that that. Keep in mind that we tend to send kids to LAC's; it's a cultural match for who we are, so don't expect Cal Tech or Notre Dame, but schools like Emory come at least every other year. I had a great visit with Emory last year.

Sorry for the marathon email, but hopefully I answered all the questions for which I had enough experience, to be comfortable answering from my experience.

By Mom101 (Mom101) on Thursday, July 22, 2004 - 03:10 am: Edit

It is amazing to me that there are parents who think an elite boarding school is a ticket to the ivys these days. Our daughter knows if she was set on the top 10 her local public school would be her best option as relatively few apply to those schools here. These kids feel very special to have gotten into the top prep schools, but you are so correct--in Palo Alto almost no one has ever heard of SPS at her elite private day (in spite of the fact that the head of school arrived directly from there) much less applied! Thanks for all the info, we will keep it quiet.

By Mom101 (Mom101) on Thursday, July 22, 2004 - 03:21 am: Edit

I was sitting here thinking what it would have been like if my daughter chose our local public high school. I 4.0 would have been easily achieved, she could have led everything and would have gotten the boxed checked that identified her as truly exceptional among those they have taught. Is an elite prep school worth feeling more average?

By Lordmandean (Lordmandean) on Thursday, July 22, 2004 - 05:54 am: Edit

admissionrep: thank you again for the insight info and analysis. You have been great! Will keep you informed over the forum if I get into Columbia GS or not.

By Hayden (Hayden) on Thursday, July 22, 2004 - 08:26 am: Edit

admissionsrep - what a sad story about the international kid whose father was fixated on Harvard. I know a kid whose mother was furious with him because he only got 1590 on his SAT's. He told us she was going to ground him, because he could do much better, why was he such a slacker, etc. The really sad part is - all this occurred in the 8th grade ! He got 1590 in 8th grade, and his parents told him he was a failure.

By Marite (Marite) on Thursday, July 22, 2004 - 09:02 am: Edit

Admissionsrep--Thanks for the great insights. I don't have a child in private school but appreciate them.

Mom101: Kids really react differently to the same environments. Your high achieving D might have become a slacker if things were too easy for her. A lot of very bright kids become underachievers out of sheer boredom. Some kids thrive when they are with other bright kids and rise to the challenge of holding their own among their peers; they may be in the middle of the pack among other bright kids, but they stretch themselves. Other kids, however, become intimidated when surrounded by really bright kids after being with more average kids for so long. Kids who were their school's superstars become overhwhelmed when they get to college and encounter Bs for the first time in their lives. So it really depends on your individual child.
My own S was becoming the class cut up when he found math unchallenging. He will work hard for the most advanced classes he takes and enjoy it, and complain about the tedious work assigned in easier classes; never mind that the homework for the advanced class may take a whole day while the easy work takes 15 minutes.
Your D may be stretched and challenged at St Paul in a way she would not be in your local public hs, and she probably will love it. If she gets good grades, she will feel she has earned them instead of feeling a bit of a fraud for getting easy As. And when she goes to college, she will feel well prepared.

By Dke (Dke) on Thursday, July 22, 2004 - 10:44 am: Edit

Admissionsrep, many thanks for the info on Woodberry Forest...very helpful .

By 3togo (3togo) on Thursday, July 22, 2004 - 10:52 am: Edit

> I was sitting here thinking what it would have been like if my daughter chose our local public high school. I 4.0 would have been easily achieved, she could have led everything and would have gotten the boxed checked that identified her as truly exceptional among those they have taught. Is an elite prep school worth feeling more average?

interesting thought ... personally I am an advocate of public high schools (albeit in a suburb with excellent schools) ... however, I am advocate for going to the best college that is practical. This has nothing to do with jobs or grad school admissions ... it is comment on being in a learning environment that is as challenging as can be readily handled and having the strongest cohort group with which to experience this learning environment. I believe this experience pushed me to higher learning and effort in college.

I believe the same thought process can easily be applied to high school ... given the right fit in a prep school I think the academic learning experience and challenge can be terrific. Again this is not a plan for jobs or college but trying to figure out the place where a child may be motivated and challenged to be their best. It's not a choice I make for my kids but certainly one I understand.

By Interesteddad (Interesteddad) on Thursday, July 22, 2004 - 12:44 pm: Edit

>> I was sitting here thinking what it would have been like if my daughter chose our local public high school. I 4.0 would have been easily achieved, she could have led everything and would have gotten the boxed checked that identified her as truly exceptional among those they have taught. Is an elite prep school worth feeling more average?

We have an interesting case study -- three cousins the same age. One did the super-elite boarding school route, one did the ultra-competitive math/science magnet school route, and we made the conscious choice to send our daughter to the local (decent, but not spectacular) public high school.

The prep school kid is a great kid, got into a top Ivy (legacy), but they could use his/her picture as the definition of the word "preppie". The magnet school kid (finished in the top 5 in the class, a dozen or more APs, IB diploma) had endured an extremely high-stress high school experience with no social life and little apparent joy. Waitlisted rejected by the HYPSM choices, attending a "second-tier" Ivy. My daughter cruised through high-school, enjoyed a close circle of friends, well-grounded, etc. She finished second in her class and is going to a top LAC early decision. Her best friend, the valedictorian, is going to another top LAC.

Of the three kids, I'm guite confident that my daughter is the least well prepared for an elite college and will have to step up her game freshman year. However, I think she is the most well-prepared and grounded of the three in terms of dealing with the places and people of this world. The prep school kid is well-grounded, too -- but would be a fish out of water in an environment where not everybody drives a BMW or Mercedes (a fate that he has never and will never endure).

I would not trade my daughter's public school for the elite boarding school because I don't think that she could have become my best friend had she left home four years ago. I wouldn't touch the magnet school with a ten-foot pole based on my limited exposure. Seems like a very unhealthy pressure-cooker environment.

By Admissionsrep (Admissionsrep) on Thursday, July 22, 2004 - 01:34 pm: Edit

Interesteddad: I will be the first to say that different schools are appropriate for different kids. I am also glad to see that you have so much respect for top LAC's. They are truly amazing places for undergraduate education: no TA's, small classes, true teaching professors, close friendships, a sense of caring community.

I just would caution you about overgeneralizing that boarding schools are all preppie or that they lack socio-ecomomic diversity. Even though 62% of the students at the school I work for are full pay kids, the other 38% represent the entire socio-economic spectrum. Schools like St. Andrews, that have even more aid than we have, are almost 50/50 in terms of full-pay and aided kids. Their average grant is 24K and ours is 21K, so the kids on aid are predominantly families that make between 10K and 75K.

We are located in an affluent suburb and we actually get quite a few public school kids apply to our school because their families want them to have more socio-economic diversity than they are getting in public school. As a boarding school, we can haul in the top rural kids and the top inner city kids, but in order to attend some of the local school districts in our area, you have to afford a mortgage that puts your family, pretty much in the 6 figure+ category.

Also, a lot of boarding schools (ours included) do not allow cars on campus; this greatly diminishes the sense of who has money and who doesn't. Our kids who come from local publics, often say that the designer label scenario was rampant.

I think your generalization has merits, but there are definitely several exceptions. Anyway, I agree with your philosophy of matching each kid to the respective school that they are best suited for.

Certainly the pros and the cons of leaving home at 14, 15 or 16, need to be weighed heavily, but in many instances, the relational bond between student and parent blossoms while they are at boarding school. The school gets to be the enforcer of the rules, while the parent is free to just focus on cultivating the friendship.

Please don't take my post as some apologetic argument that all kids should go to boarding school. I don't believe that, but I do believe that more families should consider boarding school as a viable option. Also families shouldn't be scared away by sticker shock because there is plenty of money available for kids who will strengthen the community.

By Carolyn (Carolyn) on Thursday, July 22, 2004 - 02:40 pm: Edit

Admissionsrep, Let me add my thanks to everyone else's for starting this excellent and informative thread.

Although College confidential gets quite a few top students looking at the top colleges, I'm curious as to what schools beyond the top ones do you recommend to more average students (i.e., B/B+ 1100-1200 SATs)? Also, how many students at your school attend colleges outside of the Northeast?

By Interesteddad (Interesteddad) on Thursday, July 22, 2004 - 03:03 pm: Edit

>>I just would caution you about overgeneralizing that boarding schools are all preppie or that they lack socio-ecomomic diversity.

I confess to being more than a little cynical about the "diversity" efforts of elite colleges and prep schools. Yes, they are proud of their "diversity" statistics. However, the diversity is a bit patronizing and self-serving, IMO. Essentially, they take students from diverse ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds and teach them to think like (and fit in with) a wealthy elite white culture. Nothing wrong with that, but it's a far cry from a white kid learning how to fit into the true diversity of the real world.

I'd rather see this kind of artificial diversity than no diversity at all. But, I don't think that elite prep schools and colleges offer much in the way of true diversity of opinion and values. And, I agree with Justice Thomas' biting comment that the underlying motivation smacks of "racial aesthetics". I'm not saying that's a bad thing. After all, my daughter chose an elite college over a state university that would obviously expose her to a MUCH broader cross-section of people.

Nor do I think that my daughter's public high school offered much diversity. Economic diversity? Yes. Racial diversity? None. Our area of New England could only be described as "lily white".

By Mlee (Mlee) on Thursday, July 22, 2004 - 05:18 pm: Edit

Admissionsrep -

I've been reading this thread with great interest, thanks. I'd like to ask you how much you think college counselors at prep schools succumb to pressure to work harder or better for the students whose families are particularly influential at the prep school - the big donors, the board members, etc? Will they push that student harder at XYZ ivy over the student who is academically stronger but middle class, for example. I ask this because in my experience with private schools, this kind of favoritism happens very commonly when it comes to teacher assignments, awards, etc. I fear it likely continues when it comes to college counseling as well.

By Soozievt (Soozievt) on Thursday, July 22, 2004 - 08:22 pm: Edit

InterestedDad, similar to your high school, our high school, as wel,l is very diverse economically, but not at all racially. Vermont, as well, is "lily white".

While you said your D will not have as diverse of a student body at Swat as if she had gone to UMass....the opposite is true for my D's situation. She is going to have way more diverse kids at Brown than at UVM. Diversity (or lack thereof) is a MAJOR issue at UVM and something they are trying to address. It is mostly white. While there are many Vermonters, there a ton of kids from other states, many Eastern States, also white, likely middle class or higher. At Brown, I feel she will meet kids of all races, from all 50 states, many countries, a range of economic levels. Just stepping foot on each campus as I have, they are worlds apart in terms of diversity. One of the things my D was looking for in a college was a change of living environment AND a chance to be with a more diverse group of kids.


By Admissionsrep (Admissionsrep) on Thursday, July 22, 2004 - 09:04 pm: Edit

Interesteddad, there are a lot of studies that show that a surprising percentage of white students, never go to school with a black kid until college.

Almost every one of the top 25 boarding schools has 20% US students of color or more. In fact, there is a great article in the Journal of Blacks in Higher Education about how boarding schools are more diverse than elite colleges and universities.

Consider the fact that the boarding schools also have at least another 10% of students coming from Asia and Africa, and you have a school with 30% students of color. By the way, the 2000 US Census says that, 31% of Americans are currently people of color.

My experience at boarding schools indicates that while patronizing attempts at diversity are still all too common, you would be surprised at how many schools are truly wrestling with multiculturalism.

One of the best things our alum repeatedly say is that the diversity they experienced at our school changed their lives. Interestingly, five of our last six female class Presidents have been African Americans; AA's are only 11% of our population. We have a girl President and a Boy President every year. I realize that we could go 5 straight years w/o any students of color, but it says a lot about these students not being marginalized when their peers vote them as their SBP.

By Arizonamom (Arizonamom) on Thursday, July 22, 2004 - 09:52 pm: Edit

I too am interested in your answer to Carolyn's question. Where do your students with 1200 SAT scores go for LAC's

By Admissionsrep (Admissionsrep) on Thursday, July 22, 2004 - 11:39 pm: Edit

Arizon and Carolyn, you have no idea how happy your question made me. There is so much talk on this site about HYPSM, and we know that less than 1% of students are going to these schools.

Carolyn, we send students to LAC's all over the country. Let me try to name some popular schools by region. I am going to mention somes schools whose medians may be in the high 1200's, but if you go ED, or build sufficient interest to distinguish yourself, you have a reasonable chance. Schools know that a test score doesn't say a whole lot about your ability to impact the campus and because LAC's are smaller, they are often more concerned with how each kid will be as a community member than larger schools are.

I actually went back and looked up the LAC's that students who weren't straight A students have attended.

Some of these schools are for the A/B student, some for the hi B, some for the solid B, some for the B/C, and a few are for the C/B students at our school.

Colorado College-CO
Connecticut College-Conn
Earlham College-IN
Elon College-NC
Franklin and Marshall-PA
Gettysburg College-PA
Goucher College-MD
Hampshire college-MA
Hartwick college
Hobart William & Smith
Ithaca College-NY
Lake Forest College-IL
Mary Washington-VA
Mt. Holyoke-MA
Morehouse College-GA
Muhlenburg college-PA
Roanoke College-VA
Sarah Lawrence-NY
Spelman College-GA
Whitter Co-WA

There are other good southern schools like Rhodes, Knox and Agnes Scott that students have gotten in, but chosen to go elsewhere. Remember, I have given you a range from A/B in demanding courses to C/B schools.

I'm glad you spoke up because you represent the masses. I'd highly recommend both of Loren Pope's two books; in fact they are a must for the student who wants a LAC and they are a B to B- type of student. Pope's books are called:

"Looking Beyond the Ivy League"
"Colleges That Change Lives"-read and enjoy!

I would also recommend Matthews list of the 100 most underrated colleges. He draws on research that he did by surveying dozens of college counselors to find out what schools, students come back and give the best feedback about. Jay Matthews is a Harvard alum, but he is so tired of the Harvard mentality, that he named his book, "Harvard Schmarvard". The list of 100 great schools for the B student is in the appendix.

By the way, there are some real gems on this list. It's not where you go to school, but who you are, how hard you work, and whether you pursue a career that is a good match for your gifts and your passions.

By Carolyn (Carolyn) on Friday, July 23, 2004 - 02:38 pm: Edit

Thanks Admissionsrep - Actually, quite a few of those schools are already on my daughter's list. I agree with you: there are some real gems on your list that often seem to be overlooked.

You also brought up something that only recently occurred to me - many schools have Early Action admissions that is non-binding. Recently, Sybbie, a member here at CC, posted a list of the EA admissions rates of many schools, including many on your list. The numbers surprised me --- seems as though it's not just ED applicants who have a better chance at many schools, EA applicants also have a better shot. One thing I've noticed, for instance, is that many schools fill a large percentage of their freshman class EA --- and then admissions rates for RD drop dramatically because there are fewer spaces open. For example,
Saint Olaf's College in Minnesota (also on my daughter's list) fills 75% of its freshman class through EA and ED. For EA applicants, the admissions rate is 73% (85% for ED) but for people who wait and apply RD, the admissions number drops to only 53%.

Therefore, it seems to me that it's worth investigating the EA rates for schools that offer this option - it may not give quite the same boost as applying ED but it does give you some boost at many schools without the binding committment of ED. And, applying EA is especially important at schools that try to a large majority of their class through EA/ED.

Of course, to take advantage of the EA benefit, one has to have a pretty strong idea early in senior year of where one hopes to apply.

By Admissionsrep (Admissionsrep) on Friday, July 23, 2004 - 02:50 pm: Edit


St. Olaf should have been on my list. Great school for what you are looking for. We haven't enrolled a student there in the last five years, so it slipped my mind, but we've had applicants who have opted to go elsewhere.

EA is still very powerful because you are expressing your interest in the school; this is something that schools LOVE!!!. It's not only that it's flattering, but schools love kids who really like them for who that are. If a student goes EA, and the adcom feel as if the student really knows the school well, instead of just hitting a double (EA), you've upgraded the double to a triple. Hopefully, some good references, essays, course selection, grades or extracurriculars, will turn that triple into a run. I'm not a baseball guy, but hopefully the illustration works.

ED works not only because it's binding, but arguably the single most important reason why ED is impactful is because it is an expression of interest.

If you had an ED system that was still binding and therfore assisted a school in it's enrollment management in numerous ways, but schools were told that they were getting kids for whom their school was their second, third or fifth choice, you would see ED acceptance rates go down drastically.

Schools justify their high ED rates (when they are honest enough to admit and discuss it) largely because they believe that having a group of students who love their school, strengthens the enthusiasm and attitude they bring to the school.

By Mlee (Mlee) on Friday, July 23, 2004 - 03:49 pm: Edit

Admissionsrep -

I'm hoping you will respond to my question above about the pressures college counselors face to give preferential treatment to children of major donors and board members of prep schools (boarding and day). I would hope you could speak from the congregate experience of the many college counselors you come in contact with at schools everywhere - not your particular school or experience. You have been refreshingly open and insightful about some of the back room dealings. Or does silence signal assent to bad news?

By Admissionsrep (Admissionsrep) on Friday, July 23, 2004 - 08:40 pm: Edit

I agree with the 3/3/2 approach. I have heard many of our students regret that they applied to so many schools. If you are applying to private schools or to honors programs for state schools, you are going to have to write a lot of essays and cultivate a lot of interest. This stuff takes a lot of your time.

One of your safeties should be a financial safety. Everyone of your schools should be attractive enough to you, that if you end up going to anyone of them, you will be happy.

The Director of Admissions at Dickinson likes to say, if you can't find 6-9 schools, out of over 2000 four year schools, that you are happy with, the problem is with you and not with the schools. He's right! Applicants need to get beyond the, "one perfect school mentality".

In reality, you have to come up with a list of schools that you are very comfortable with, for some that's five and for some that's ten, but it's hard to make a case for why you need to apply to more than ten.

Do your research, visit the schools, and make some cuts!

By Snuffles (Snuffles) on Friday, July 23, 2004 - 10:53 pm: Edit


I'm currently a student at Tufts University, and most of us have heard of the ever-so-famous "Tufts syndrome." Though I and several other students here vehemently refuse to believe that it exists, I'd like to know your point of view and the vague notion of safety school and autorejection.

By Admissionsrep (Admissionsrep) on Saturday, July 24, 2004 - 12:29 am: Edit

Snuffles, Tufts is an absolutely outstanding school that is very popular at our school. Students consistently come back with rave reviews. I especially hear unbelievable things about how women scientist just thriving at Tufts.

Having said all of that, my limited experience tells me there is some truth to Tufts denying people who don't express enough interest. Tufts is not alone in this regard, F & M has been quite up front about this.

I know of a student who had 1590 on her SAT's, pretty good grades, not the top of her class, but probably top 10% at a college prep boarding school. She was rejected at Tufts, but accepted at IVY's and other very selective schools. She chose Duke, but her parents just flipped out when they found out that Tufts denied her.

I do know that, somehow Tufts is the school that got labelled for denying kids they think will choose Harvard and for whom they think Harvard is likely to admit.

I don't know why Tufts got this reputation, but I wonder if Tufts intentionally did this to enhance it's prestige.

I know a man in his mid 50's who told me that when he went to school, Tufts was everyones safety, but now it's really hard to get in that place.

Tufts has really upgraded it's image and denying students that are perceived as "too strong to pick a school as it's first option" is a common practice.

Last year, Brown denied one of our kids who went to Yale and they denied another kid that went to Princeton. Subsequent calls to their office indicated that they never showed enough interest to indicate to the office that it is a match.

I know from personal experience at the boarding school level that when you deny kids that your feeder schools know you would have chosen in the past, YOU GET A HECKUVA LOT MORE RESPECT THE NEXT YR.By respect, I mean you get BETTER APPLICANTS the next year: often times, very noticably better.

Schools know this and that is why schools really wrestle over accepting a kid who is subpar.

I know of another elite liberal arts school that has a history of working with our school very closely. A few days ago I would have mentioned the school by name, but there are so many people on these boards that I am guarding naming specific schools a little more than I use to.

Anyway, this school use to take twelve or fifteen of our students every year. We are talking about one of the most selective institutions in the country. As usual, we had a historical track record with this school. In fact, they perceived us as their number one feeder school in the nation.

I noticed that this school rarely got the top 10% of our apps. I was talking to an employee of their school and the person told me that the this very selective LAC, has been contemplating going one or two years in a row where they take NONE of our grads. They were thinking about sending us a resounding message. Candidly, I told them that this kind of thing works.

I was with one of our students who went to this school in May. He was telling me he had no idea how prestigious this school is because at our school it's sort of "ho-hum". In fact, he acknowledged that because acceptance at this school generated such a tepid response in our student body, he almost picked another school over this school, thinking that it must be a better school because the school he chose lacked "buzz" at our school.

Well, you get "buzz" when students are saying, "can you believe that so and so didn't get into XYZ school"? Man, this school must be hot; this school must be flooded with applicants. I want to go to this school.

I feel bad for Tufts because everyone is concerned with yield, so to some extent everyone plays the game. From my experience it's not fair to put the "Tufts syndrome" on Tufts, but it wouldn't surprise me if it was an intentional strategy to increase Tufts prestige. Whatever they did, it has worked because Tufts is one of the hot schools out there these days.

By Mmm3 (Mmm3) on Saturday, July 24, 2004 - 09:52 am: Edit

Any insight on how ED impacts financial aid? Seems to me that you've lost your "bargining chip" once applying ED. What's your experience?

By Enarang (Enarang) on Saturday, July 24, 2004 - 10:56 am: Edit

Admissionsrep have you had any students applying to Babson College and what comes to mind (if it comes to mind at all because not many people recognize the name from outside the northeast) and do you know by any chance how the admitted students (if any) liked it?

By Admissionsrep (Admissionsrep) on Sunday, July 25, 2004 - 05:25 pm: Edit

Enarang, I don't have enough experience with students who have gone to Babson to give you intelligent feedback, but I am extremely impressed with this school for anyone who wants to be an entrepreneur. I have spent some time on their site evualating their majors, curriculum and course offerings.

Generally, I hear people debating whether Bentley or Babson is the better school. As I'm sure you know, both offer a great focus on business. I know that Babson is a heckuva lot of work, but it's not as hard to get into as IVY
's and selective LAC's.

From what I know, if I know that I wanted to start my own business, I Babson would be at the top of my list. By the way, Northeastern's entrepreneurial major gets absolute rave reviews from some entrepreneurs I talked with.

I recently had a discussion with the parents of one of our students. Both of these parents are Wharton alum and they have both started their own very successful business. I asked them what they thought was the best place to go for entrepreneurial training and the husband said, Northeastern.

From what I know, Babson is an underrated gem.

Mmm3: You want to read the chapter on ED and finanical aid, in the "Early Admissions Game". They do exhaustive research and conclude, ED absolutely decreases the aid you get in the majority of instances.

What schools do is offer their best packages to the students they want the most. Schools also increase the amount of work study and loans in your package when they know that they have you. Another good book that addresses this is, "Deals and Discounts at the top 360 schools". I may be slightly off on the title, but that is pretty close.

I had a good conversation with one of my friends last week who use to work in Princeton's admission office, but now he a full time counselor. My friend told me that other than Harvard, Princeton and Williams, he doesn't trust any other schools to give you the same package ED as they will RD.

Swarthmore has been very good at their ED packages from my experience. Franklin & Marshall tries to market themselves as giving you a better package if you go ED. They promise to let you not have a tuition increase for the first year, if you go ED.

One of the main reasons our school only has 35% of our apps going ED is because you absolutely lose your leverage. You also lose your ability to go back to schools and ask them to re-evaluate their aid offer. Despite what schools want you to believe, more schools are open to doing this than people think. It all depends if you are strong in their applicant pool and how strong their financial resources are. Of course, there are a few schools that just won't reconsider, but they are the exception.

If I was applying ED, it would have to be to a school with an outstanding endowment. I would also like the school to be emphatic about the fact that they give great aid packages to their ED applicants.

However, in general, I don't trust financial aid when it comes to ED, it's human nature to allocate your resources on something that is not already in your back pocket.

By Gbelle (Gbelle) on Monday, July 26, 2004 - 07:12 am: Edit

Here's a question I haven't seen on any board before and perhaps you can help.

We will be moving next year to another state where my son wants to attend college (We are moving for job reasons, he just happened to pick several colleges in that state. One is the state university.) We are planning to remain in our current state until he graduates so that he can continue with his studies/sports/ECs at his current school. Then we move around June 2005.

Question: Is there a residency requirement for lower (in state resident) tuition at a state university? If he chooses the state university, do we have to be residents of the state for X amount of time before he begins? As he is applying? Sometime during the year?

Your advice has been great on this board. Hopefully, you can address this question or suggest where I might go to find the answer. Thanks in advance.

By Jamimom (Jamimom) on Monday, July 26, 2004 - 08:53 am: Edit

Gbelle, as a frequent mover, I can answer your question, but unfortunately there is no one answer. It differs from state to state as to what the residency requirements are. Most state college applications have a link that gives you the requirements of that state. For instance, New York state requires a year of residency befor you can claim in state tuition rights. I believe you have to have had filed a tax return for the prior year in order to be on the rolls.

Enforcement and monitoring is up to the individual colleges. I know people who sign up for community college or local schools who get the in state tuition because as long as you have an address in state and a valid id showing that address, the registrar is not concerned about the fine print. Again, the only way to find out what the policies are is to go through the procedures, because what is told to you could be the letter of the law but is not actually carried out.

By Admissionsrep (Admissionsrep) on Monday, July 26, 2004 - 10:14 am: Edit

I wanted to agree with Jamimom; this varies from state to state. North Carolina can be quite strict as several people have the idea of trying to get in state tuition, which is a bargain indeed.

By Pamvanw (Pamvanw) on Monday, July 26, 2004 - 01:00 pm: Edit

Admissionsrep, If my student applies ED to his first choice school do you think that will effect his chances of being admitted to the honors program? The university's admissions rep said that it doesn't, but it would seem to fall into the same catagory as merit aid. They don't need to give you honors to entice you to come.

By Admissionsrep (Admissionsrep) on Monday, July 26, 2004 - 06:26 pm: Edit


This is a question that varies from institution to institution. While most state schools have honors colleges that function a lot like private schools in their admissions policies, some schools have rather objective criteria.

Many schools have a separate admissions committee for their honors colleges. Keep in mind that whoever oversees the honors college admissions, will want to have enthusiastic students in the college, for whom the school is their first choice.

No school wants one of it's matriculants walking around and saying, "It's okay being at this school, but I sure wish I got in ABC school because that was my first choice, but unfortunately, I didn't get accepted there".

I see a big difference between how ED works against you for Fin Aid, compared to how ED helps or hinders an honors college application.

One thing you may want to do is make is crystal clear that the reason you love the school so much is because of it's honors college. Of course, they could deny you if your not strong enough for the HC, but it's an approach that I would use if I really liked an HC and I had doubts about how going ED could negatively impact my app.

By Pinkearmufs (Pinkearmufs) on Monday, July 26, 2004 - 06:48 pm: Edit

Hi Admissionsrep:
My SAT II's are in november, the 6th. will my scores be sent in time for the november 15th ed 1 deadline for pomona if I do rush delivery? I know there is an ED 2 due in december, but I really want to go to pomona and feel like I will be at a disadvantage to those who are applying ED 1. And I can't take the test in October because that is when I am retaking SAT I. I already tried contacting collegeboard, too, they didn't really help.

By Admissionsrep (Admissionsrep) on Monday, July 26, 2004 - 07:49 pm: Edit

The scores will be sent directly to the school. Keep in mind that Pomona won't need to make it's decision by Nov 15th. I'm not sure exactly how Pomona works, but most schools will take scores that arrive a little after the app date, but well before the date you need to be informed, and factor them in.

Pomona does such an incredible job of handling each app in a personal way that this should bode well for you.

If you email me, I can give you the names of a couple members of Pomona's admissions staff who graduated from my school. They will be happy to answer this question directly with you via email. Just email me and I will give you some useful info about Pomona.

By Maggie (Maggie) on Tuesday, July 27, 2004 - 02:22 am: Edit

Thanks everyone for their comments esp. admissionsrep for your great suggestions.

Would you guys please evaluate my chanes (esp. admissionsrep)?

I am an int'l student from HK studying in a CC in WA.

I have 4.0 GPA, average level classes.

VP of int'l student org (been involved since 1st quarter as social activities coordinator, got promoted in spring)
student ambassador, 3rd for most number of hours volunteered (been actively involved since first quarter, some leadership and communication skills training)
international student mentor (started summer, will continue)
community service club (not very active, but still sometimes get involved)
student senator of student gov't (regular voter)
volunteer in new students orientation (quite unique, good relationships with those folks in the office)
submitted an essay to International digest, a newspaper included in school's newspaper, published once a quarter, may submit 1-2 more next year

Will volunteer in tutoring center next year while striving to maintain the above

I think I will have around 640/270 in TOEFL

I am majoring in business marketing.

I have 7 colleges in mind (are they reaches, matches or safeties?)
1. UMich-Ann Arbor
2. NYU (1st choice)
3. UWash (in-state advantage)
4. UWis-Madison
5. Indiana U
6. USC
7. UMinn-Twin cities

Any tips/suggestions on applications?

Please help!
thanks a lot!

By Optimizerdad (Optimizerdad) on Tuesday, July 27, 2004 - 08:53 am: Edit

This is (literally) your 21st post asking 'What are my chances'? It has nothing to do with general admission tips/suggestions, which is what this thread is about. Please stop being so obsessive about adding your post *everywhere* - you've had plenty of advice from other people already.

By Admissionsrep (Admissionsrep) on Tuesday, July 27, 2004 - 10:47 am: Edit

Maggie, just because I do boarding school admissions and some college counseling, it doesn't make me the most knowledgable person on this site. In fact, I have read multiple posts from others on this board who I consider to be more knowledgable than myself. I have my perspective based on my experiences with colleges and university admissions reps.

I would have said you have no chance at Michigan, but I was really surprised at two of the out of state, International students who they took from us last year. I spoke with one of their admission reps at a fair we both attended in May and she told me that Michigan is going to be taking more out of state kids in the future. This seems to be a new direction the school is going in, that to my understanding, relates somehow to the Affirmative action decision.

Maggie, if it's true that you have posted this multiple times, my advice for you is that you go over to the parents forum, and you read the book that I recommended that every parent read. I just posted this as a new post over there around 10:35 am today. Reading this book will let you know what obsessing about acceptances can do for your mental and physical health.

By Asianalto (Asianalto) on Tuesday, July 27, 2004 - 03:22 pm: Edit

admissionsrep: All your advice is great!

I go to a very small public high school with almost no APs and no honors courses. Do colleges understand that I can't take 20 APs and that taking 4 really is the most rigorous courseload at my school?

By Soozievt (Soozievt) on Tuesday, July 27, 2004 - 04:17 pm: Edit

Asianalto, I am not Admissions rep but I feel I can answer your question in the sense that I am knowledgeable about the college admissions process, as well as have a daughter who just graduated a small public high school where there are hardly any AP courses, though we do have Honors courses.

The answer to your question above is YES, colleges understand that not every school offers AP or may not even offer Honors courses. What they want to see is that you challenged yourself in the environment in which you were educated. So, they want to see that you took the most demanding schedule available at YOUR particular school. It is not your fault if your school has only 4 AP classes. But if they offer four, they would like to see you taking those (if you are pursuing selective colleges). The way the school will know how demanding the courseload you took at your school will be via a few ways. One is that when your school submits your transcript, along with it will be what is known as the School Profile. That document describes the curriculum your school offers (for example, if there are Honors courses, how many AP courses, average SAT scores in your school, percentage of college bound students, etc.). So, they will see what was offered to you and if you chose to avail yourself of the most challenging courses you could. As well, your guidance counselor will be having to answer on his/her evaluation sheet for college, if you took the most demanding, or simply more demanding or typical courseload, etc. His report will let them know if your courses were truly the most rigorous at your school. Another thing may be that the school may look to see if you found ways to challenge yourself beyond the school's offerings....which may be via independent studies, long distance courses, community college courses, internships, research, and so on. Lastly, in a college interview, the question as to the challenge of your courseload usually arises and you can elaborate and explain that there as well.

So, as long as you truly challenged yourself with what YOUR school offered, that is all that matters. If you read of some kids on this forum as having 15 AP classes or some such and you know that that is not the offering at your high school (nor ours), don't worry. By the way, my daughter got into some highly selective schools from a public school such as ours. So, know that this is not a problem in itself for you.


By Admissionsrep (Admissionsrep) on Wednesday, July 28, 2004 - 10:59 am: Edit


I just wanted to agree for the most part with Soozievt and his comments. I also want to add a few new points to consider.

Many of the most rigorous schools in the nation such as: Germantown Friends school, Phillips Andover, Exeter, etc, do not offer AP's or advanced courses. In fact, the trend in private schools is starting to move away from AP as teachers are rebelling about feeling straightjacketed by their curriculums.

Colleges know that there are students out there who are, "diamonds in the rough", but they can't show their rigor because the curriculum does not allow for it.

I do know that colleges prefer to see a school offer a grade distribution when they read the school profile. In other words, some schools profiles let the colleges know that there were 15 kids that took such and such class, but only 3 got A's and other profiles do not do this.

Colleges hate it when a school doesn't do this because it is one of the main ways that they ascertain whether or not a student is truly excelling compared to their peers. There is a big difference between a school where 50% of the kids get A's vs one where 15% get A's in a given class.

Colleges do prefer a school to have ranking, AP's, Advanced, etc because it makes it easier for them to get some benchmarks as to how the student is doing.

I remember having a conversation with a former Davidson rep and he was delighted that a local school had added an IB curriculum. He now felt that he could evaluate the rigor of the workload a lot more effectively. While schools try hard not to discrimmate against schools with limited AP's; I do believe that there a natural bias to downgrade a school with limited AP's this UNLESS that school has one of the following things:

a high percentage of students going to 4 year schools.
high average SAT scores
an impressive college list
a track record with the school.

The upshot of what I am saying is that I believe that no AP's is not a resume killer, but don't be naive; if your school doesn't have one of the things I mentioned going for you, you should consider sending your kid off to one of the summer programs at a selective college.

Schools will look very closely at how a student does in a summer college course. Schools are usually familiar with a lot of these college courses, so it gives them a chance to compare how a student does to other students outside of each kids respective school.

The AP thing works both ways. When a school has ten or more AP courses, the colleges are going to expect applicants from these schools to have taken their fair share. I hear people on this board talking about having taken 8 or more AP's, but in my experience four (and even three) is plenty enough to substantiate your rigor. Of course, I am talking about a student coming from a school like ours that offers 10 AP's and 10 advanced courses.

I don't have experience working with a school like Northfield Mt Herman where there are 25 AP offerings, but my understanding is that 3 or 4 at our school is the equivalent at 6 or 7 at a school like NMH.

Hope this helps

By Mom101 (Mom101) on Wednesday, July 28, 2004 - 10:13 pm: Edit

Admissionsrep, I was interested in your suggestion about summer college as a way for colleges to get another vantage point on an applicant. This strategy seemed to have worked for us in the boarding school admissions process; my daughter was able to show an excellent report from a top school, especially showing that she was a good candidate for doing well in that lifestyle. So I'm wondering how you would advise the elite boarding school student to spend their high school summers. Community service? Jobs? Summer college?

By Teal (Teal) on Thursday, July 29, 2004 - 12:41 am: Edit

I am debating on my senior schedule, which would have 3 aps and a required class. For the last class, I am thinking about either physics or an rop (regional occupation program) class like virtual enterprise. Do colleges like rop classes; have they heard of it; or should i focus on an academic class instead?

Thanks for taking the time to answer questions :)

By Soozievt (Soozievt) on Thursday, July 29, 2004 - 02:06 am: Edit

Admissionsrep...I do appreciate the wisdom of your experience that you have so willingly shared here. First of all, just so you know, I am a she, not a he.

I respectfully disagree on the importance of taking a summer program at a college. And in fact, my reason dovetails with the question that Mom101 raised about how colleges would like to see high schoolers spend their summers. I truly believe they want to see kids doing worthwhile things in summer to pursue their interests or engage in something. It need NOT be academic. I would encourage all kids to pursue what interests them in summer, not what might look good for college.

I must say in my own family, my kids never made summer choices with college in mind. My kids have done summer programs but they were not at colleges, nor academic. They were in areas connected with their interests. I am not saying that is the only or right answer, just sharing what my own kids have done. But whether it is a summer program of some sort, community service, travel or a job, it is about getting engaged in what matters to you. The applicants who look less interesting (to me, as an interviewer) are those who have barely anything to tell about their summers other than hanging out. Frankly, a job looks way way better than that. I don't think, however, what one chooses to do in summer should be connected to strategizing what might look good on the college resume. There also are a lot of folks on the message boards who seem to value summer academic programs more highly than other summer activities as if they are expected and should be done. I do not feel that way at all. I think a summer academic program is valid for a kid who has a passion for an area they may wish to pursue in the summer. Their passion might be a certain field of academics, for instance. But things outside academics would rate just as highly for summer pursuits.

By the way, while our school may fit your profile, my kids, nor most of their peers, did college summer programs. A few kids each year do get into highly selective colleges. So, this summer college program piece is surely not needed. However, my kids have significant things to record regarding their summers in high school. They pursued areas they love, have done their whole lives and wish to continue in college. They would have done these summer activities with or without college in mind, because they love these programs/activities. I truly believe that is what colleges want to see.

My advice is not to pick a summer program to enhance the admissions resume but rather choose what you want to be engaged in for its own sake. College admissions will follow. It did for one of mine. My next is about to apply. In her case, she has been going to the same summer program since age nine so we surely did not pick it with college in mind! Yet, I am absolutely sure that in retrospect, now that she has chosen to do this every summer for the love of it, this particular program will have a positive effect in her admissions profile as it has impacted her more than anything in her life. Remember, THAT is what it is about, not WHAT the program is or that it be academic or in a college setting.


By Admissionsrep (Admissionsrep) on Thursday, July 29, 2004 - 11:46 am: Edit


I agree with everything you said. Students should pursue their passions. Summers are really important; especially the summer between the junior and senior year. Schools don't want to see that someone sat idly and twiddled their thumbs. Schools look at what you did over the summer as a good reflection of your passions, gifts and motivation level. Working is always respected highly by colleges.

I think that you need to realize the context in which I said what I said. I was specifically referring to a student who wanted to go to a selective school, but their school didn't have:

many advanced or AP courses
many students going to 4 year schools
a track record of college placement with selective schools
or high average SAT scores.

I simply said that if you are unable to substantiate a track record of your school with other schools, or the academic rigor of your curriculum, taking summer courses at reputable colleges is one way to assuage this concern. I understand how my post implied that I was advocating taking courses, just to resume pad, but that was not the intention of the post. Also, the intention was not to minimize how community service and great jobs are even more valued in many cases by various admission members.

Mom, I say to you that your child should pursue her passions. Schools love students who have passion and the summer is a great way to enhance your daughters passion: the colleges will take note.

Teal, it's not clear to me that there is one right or wrong answer. On the one hand, you want to pursue your passion and if ROP is a passion, it should be pursued. ON the other hand, colleges do focus on how students are doing in the five core academic subjects. Many, many school re-compute a student's GPA based on math, science, English, language and history. I would consult with your current school counselor on this one because he or she will know a lot more about how strong the transcript looks thus far. Also, he or she will know what schools are under consideration.

By Soozievt (Soozievt) on Thursday, July 29, 2004 - 12:33 pm: Edit

Admissionsrep, I did understand the context of your suggestion on the summer college programs. I likely was not that clear, sorry. My kids' high school somewhat fits the profile of the situation you were suggesting summer college work for and I was saying that I still did not think this was necessary. My children did not do college or academic summer progams (though did do programs in their interests). My recent graduate got into several selective colleges including Ivy League. I understand you were not advocating college summer programs to pad the resume. That reference I had made was not in reference to your post but to SOME posts on CC over the years that do seem to advocate a need to do summer pre-college academic programs. That is a comment I meant separate from any of your posts, sorry. Sometimes I will read kids almost apologizing or stating they did not do any summer academic programs, as if those were necesary for selective college admissions. So, I was just giving my view that doing any summer activity or program, not necessarily tied to academics or colleges, will be seen as worthwhile if the activity was a pursuit of an interest or even a work experience. Not everything must be academic (again I know you were not saying that either).

I think the strength of the school curriculum can be assesssed in part by viewing the school profile, counselor's comments and so on. I think a student will be evaluated in the context of their own school. Taking the most rigorous courseload is important if striving for elite admissions. As well, pursuing further challenges via indep. study, distance learning, internships, research, college classes, are all other ways to demonstrate a love of learning and craving of challenge, no matter the competitiveness of one's local school.


By Justice (Justice) on Thursday, July 29, 2004 - 01:09 pm: Edit


Don't worry about the APs (or lack of). I can second the fact that top schools (Andover) are moving away from APs. We've never had AP lang, lit, us history, govs, or any of that. It just so happens that a ton of kids take the tests anyways and do very well. It's really not a big deal as long as you took hard classes within the context of your school. Plenty of people get in even when they only took 2 or 3 APs. The GC's analysis of your transcript via the GC recommendation will clarify this to colleges which may be unfamiliar with your high school.

This is kind of late but...
I don't think boarding schools are anti-Asian for financial aid. I know Asians who are on heavy financial-aid and who requested more (since her mom lost her job) and subsequently got it. It's a matter of case-by-case; if they like you, they will throw money at you no matter what color you are. On the flip side, I have a couple Asian friends who got 99ths and were still rejected from AESt.P and others. You might find more 99-Asians rejected than say 99-blacks, but there are still a ton of Asians at those schools receiving aid.

By Admissionsrep (Admissionsrep) on Thursday, July 29, 2004 - 01:40 pm: Edit


I think you said it best when you said that "You might find more 99-Asians rejected than say-blacks. I would also add or Hispanics, rural white or American Indians.

There are definitely Asians on financial aid; in fact, I can rattle off the names of about twenty that I know of at my school and other schools, but trust me, it is pretty much axiomatic in the placement business, to understand how hard it is to place full-need Asians in boarding schools.

I know several organizations that place full-need kids, and it is extraordinarily difficult to place full-need Asians and full-need white kids. It's all about supply and demand. When you have, what you regard as a good number of full-pay kids from a particular group, the appeal of aiding more of that group just isn't there.

Keep in mind that the allocation of financial aid, is one of the primary ways in which schools do their enrollment management to hit their targetted enrollment objectives in various niche areas.

By Dentist86 (Dentist86) on Monday, August 02, 2004 - 06:51 am: Edit


By Aegionis (Aegionis) on Monday, August 09, 2004 - 09:51 pm: Edit

I have two questions. How important are the first two years of high school comparable to the later years? Because I had a much lower g.p.a and less ap/honors classes during freshman year and sophomore year than I did later and later I took all aps and honors. Would that also present me in a underachieverish light?
My second question is that I took alot of classes in history and not any in my intended major. Is that a bad thing?

By Admissionsrep (Admissionsrep) on Tuesday, August 10, 2004 - 12:58 am: Edit

The more selective the school, the more the first two years are factored in. I think a lot of schools are willing to overlook a 9th grade year with below average grades, but selective schools generally won't look too favorably on two botched years.

I remember one of the Davidson reps I met two years ago saying,

"if you have any C's on your transcript, they better be in your 9th grade year." I know that sometimes schools like to posture themselves in order to create an image, but there is a lot of truth to the fact that schools cut you some slack in 9th grade, but a lot less slack in the 10th.

Keep in mind that there are only about 200 selective schools out of over 2000 four year schools. If you are talking about applying to the 1800 schools, most of these will overlook a shaky first two years.

I think that not taking that many courses, in areas that you are now interested in, is much less of a problem than a shaky first two years. Schools understand that 14 and 15 year olds haven't figured out what they want to do yet. They are more interested in whether you have proven that you can handle the work; of course grades and overall rigor of your course selection are the best determiners of this.

Engineering schools and specialty programs are more likely to take a good look at whether your courses have prepared you for their program, but if your not talking about a specialized major, you should be able toget around this hurdle.

By Sunnydaysee (Sunnydaysee) on Monday, August 16, 2004 - 08:41 pm: Edit

What about bad junior years? I know junior year is the most important and you have to perform your best which I feel I didn't do. Out of 6 classes (12 grades [one per each semester]) I got 6 A's, 2 B's, 3 C's and 1 D. The C's and D's are from 2 AP classes (in my other AP class I had a A/B and my honor class was a A/A) but I made up the D in summer school (in a regular class though, no AP) I'm probably going to major in science (and the lower grades are from history and foreign language classes). My first 2 years are 4.0 (UW) (only could take one honors class in chem). How will my grades affect admission?

By Babouche (Babouche) on Saturday, August 28, 2004 - 12:04 am: Edit


Woman, Hispanic, Scarsdale HS, GPA 3.5, 5 AP, SAT 1430, Math IIC 760, Phys 670, will take writing and chem. Research Paper, President Shakespeare Club, Captain swim team.

What are my chances at Ivy League particularly HYP?

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