Searching for Ivy Success:
An Interview with Katherine Cohen

Author of The Truth About Getting In

College Confidential posed a few questions to Kat Cohen about admissions issues.  

[Be sure to read Dave Berry's review of The Truth About Getting In here on

College Confidential (CC): What's your opinion of the current level of college guidance being offered in today's public high schools? Are private-school counselors any better?  
Katherine Cohen (KC): Not necessarily. It depends on the individual school and counselor. The problem with public schools is that they usually cannot afford to have a low student-to-counselor ratio and the counselors usually have many other responsibilities (like monitoring the yard during physical education classes). This might mean that the individual student does not get a lot of attention. Also, at most public schools, the first time students hear of the college process is in their junior year, which, I think, is too late. 
CC: In your opinion, are little-known, so-called "lower-tier" private colleges worth their price tag, or would most students be better off at their local state university? 
KC: This depends on the individual student and his/her needs. I couldn't respond to this without looking at the individual.  
CC: Allegedly, Princeton University admissions won¹t speak with independent counselors in regards to applicants. How do other top colleges view the role of independent counselors? Are they generally seen as "packaging hucksters," "handlers," or as a viable alternative to inexperienced, less-than-savvy, in-school counselors? 
KC: It depends on the individual independent counselor and his/her reputation. I have been lucky enough to speak to many deans and directors of admissions directly, because they know I am ethical and help students through the process so that students are representing themselves authentically and completely.

CC: Your book, The Truth About Getting In, has a very impressive, 50-page chapter on application essays. Obviously, your emphasis indicates your concern about it. Can an outstanding essay lift one applicant over another who is equally qualified? 
KC: Yes. If you can write well about yourself and your personality and voice shine through your essay, this will make your application come alive for the reader and may tip you in over someone equally as qualified, but boring or impersonal. 
CC: Of the special "rounds" of admissions considerations, which carry more weight, offering applicants a real edge: legacy, development cases, athletes, artists, celebrities, etc.? 
KC: This depends on the individual and the level of legacy/athlete/development, etc. A nationally ranked athlete holds more weight than a state ranked athlete. A $100 million donor holds more weight than a $200,000 donor does. 


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