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					Ask what your college wants from you: How colleges select students
By Susan G Chesnut
Ahwatukee Foothills News
March 16, 2007


2006 high school graduates Louisa Rios and Sarita Asavez applied to seven colleges.
Their transcripts reflected a 3.89 GPA and multiple extracurricular activities. Their
respective schools had similar demographics and academic standings. The colleges to which
they applied ranged from smaller state universities to small liberal arts colleges. Sarita
received three acceptance letters, none of which came from the college of her choice.
Louisa Rios’s six acceptance letters did include one from her top choice of colleges. Why the
difference?

Louisa began researching colleges and the college admission process when she was a ninth
grader. She checked out books like Get Into any College by Gen and Kelly Tanabe and
studied websites such as https://www.collegedata.com.

She learned what courses she should take to become college ready. Louisa became familiar
with the general admission requirements, complex course requirements and sequences.
After reading that colleges want people who are committed to something without being
artificially packaged, she realized the need to find out what her passion was.

She took several assessments to help her discover more about herself. In addition to other
activities, Louisa decided to focus on journalism and science clubs. She wrote for the
school paper, edited the yearbook, contributed articles on scientific trends to the local
newspaper, attended a science camp, and entered state science fairs. In her senior year she
became president of both clubs.

She studied for her admissions tests and took them early. Knowing that some teachers limit
the number of recommendations they write, Louisa locked in a popular teacher early in her
junior year. She applied to colleges that reflected “a fit”, went to each college to check it
out, and sent a thank you note to colleges representatives. She practiced for admissions
committee interviews. Besides focusing her college- entrance required essays around a
theme, she also customized them for each college.

Sarita’s preparation did not begin as early as Louisa’s, nor was it as comprehensive. She
made two erroneous assumptions which sabotaged her search efforts. She assumed that her
family connections would insure admission with a minimum of effort She assumed her good
grades and long list of extra-curricular activities would smooth her way in to a select college.

She didn’t realize that “her” college’s admission practices had changed in the past few years.
The college currently placed great emphasis on each applicant’s character as reflected by
essay, high school activities, and teacher recommendations. Nor did she realize that so many
donors’ children applied to the college that to be a “legacy” student did not carry the weight
it once did.
What can you do to facilitate your college application process? Check with local experts
such as Sandra Sommers (http://www.careerdiscoveryservices.com/
 and Claire Hinkley at http://www.azlearningalternatives.com/
 Actively court the colleges you want to attend. Read books such as The New Rules of
College Admissions. Research websites like http://www.collegeconfidential.com/ In a
nutshell, follow Louisa Rios’ example: Start your research early and thoroughly organize and
follow a plan.

Susan Chesnut works with people going through transitions and can be reached at
480.785.2622 or at susan@achievetransitions.com
Selective colleges tally extra-curricular activities, essays, and interviews into the equation. In
many cases the likelihood of the student to attend the college weighs heavily.


Louisa’s parents checked her transcript once a year to keep up with any possible
discrepancies.



Louisa’s parents checked her transcript once a year to keep up with any possible
discrepancies.




Sarita took her college boards at the last minute and submitted “canned” admission
application essays. Her many unfocused activities reflected breadth, not depth, and her
essay did not reflect the character that several of her targeted colleges sought. By the time
she asked for a teacher recommendation, the first five teachers she asked declined her
request because of too many previous ones.




So why the difference in acceptance rates? Louisa’s higher acceptance rate occurred because
she:
Researched and began the college application process as early as possible
Focused




early decision applicants have advantage. Smaller pool. Catch is have to commit to attend if
accepted and not available for financial-aid offers that come later in the spring.
ut I decided to write my personal essay about stepping out of my comfort zone and learning
to love things that I was frankly not very good at. For example, I was a terrible softball
player. I joined the JV team anyway, got better and wound up being elected the captain. Of
course, I don't know for sure, but I think my willingness to learn new skills made my
application stand out.

I didn't have to dress myself up to get admitted. I told them who I was and what sort of
student I would be when I showed up in the fall. For a recommendation letter I even picked
a teacher of a class where I had struggled. Many valedictorians are rejected every year. You
have to be more than a set of numbers.




https://www.collegedata.com



public schools. Teacher recommendations are often considered, especially if other
recommendations from that teacher are on file for comparison.

An underrated factor in attaining admission to elite colleges is the necessity that a student
indicate interest in the college or university. However, many well-known universities
disregard a student's interest when evaluating.



Synopsis: Ask not what you want from your college. Ask what your college wants
from you: How colleges select students
Maria Brown was accepted by three colleges after applying to fifteen while Shelly Crow
applied to ten colleges and was accepted by seven of them. Why the difference? This
article
1. Discusses need for research beyond college acceptance requirements.
2. Emphasizes importance of demonstrating interest in the college/university
3. Gives some examples of various selection criteria such as personal qualities, fields of
     studies, connections, contributions, diversity, early decisions, and best-fit students.
4. Cites resources for finding admissions statistics and acceptance criteria

 Outline:
 I.          Two girls with same qualifications experience difference in percentage of
      college acceptance
 II. Reason for different college acceptance percentages
 III. Interested and “best fit” students have edge
 IV. Areas to research when attempting to gain admission to colleges
 V. Resources for finding acceptance criteria and admission statistics
Louisa knew that colleges base their decision to admit students on academic potential as
reflected by GPA and admission exam results and on teacher recommendations. She
discovered that admissions criteria vary depending on the school’s size and values and that
selective colleges tally extra-curricular activities, essays, and interviews into the equation. In
many cases the likelihood of the student to attend factors heavily.




David T Conley. College Knowledge. What it really takes for students to succeed and what
we can do to get them ready. Jossey-Bass, 2005

Stephen Kramer and Michael London, Edss: The New Rules of college Admissions. Simon
& Schuster. New York, 2006.
Gen and Kelly Tanabe: Get into any college: Sescrets of harvarad Students. 4th Edition.
SuperCollege, LLC. Los Altos, CA, 2004.
.

https://www.collegedata.com https://www.collegedata.com