Jan 222012

College Admission Tips from an Admissions Insider

Note:  This is  part 10 of the transcript of the information contained in the video from VanderbiltUniversity about Applying for College – an Insiders Guide for Getting Into a Good College and it’s about getting admitted to college.

For the previous segment click below:

Who Writes Your Letters of Recommendation for College?

If you’ve never applied to college before having a few college admissions tips from someone inside a college can help you understand what the colleges are looking for when they are admitting candidates.

As an admissions insider, what tips can you give to help me sound my best in my application?

I would make sure that you investigated the school and you know who we are because in a lot of the things we are ascertaining and asking you, how much do you know about us? Because it’s for the fit. I would clearly look at some of those base facts or base issues of does it read well, is it grammatically put together properly. Those types of things.

I will also make sure that your essays, as we’ve talked about already, are your authentic voice, they’re you coming through, not so pre-packaged. The other thing is that you are mature enough to follow the instructions that if we say 500 words, we want 500. We don’t want 1000. That you are mature enough that you pick recommenders that can talk about you as the person, not at the belief that you needed to pick the most famous person you know, or your parent’s neighbors knows.

So those would be the kind of tips that I will give. I would say if it is a little earlier before the application process, is I encourage student to do this a lot. If they are sophomore, is that one of the things, or junior, they’re starting to narrow – they’re looking at 20 schools or 10 schools at that point.

Go out and print out their application. Start looking a couple of years before you come. What looks like the questions that they are asking? So that you have a sense of what that value of that campus is because that can perhaps guide you in choices to prepare in application. I say that with a little bit of hesitancy though because you don’t want it to look like you have pre-packaged, you want it to be this authentic.

So those would be the kind of pieces that I would give and I always love to give an example of the school that I worked out once where they’re kind of arch-rival in the student’s essay. The essay was reading along smashingly well. I’m so excited, this is the dream school that I want to go to. Talking about the school that I was working at. Then in the final paragraph, they noted the other school because they didn’t change their word document. So you want to think about that you’ve done some of those base facts that you’re talking to the school and that wonderful search and replace, you do that.

If there’s anything that I can leave today, it is the application process - we look at applications to admit you, not to deny because we are building a community of learners in this wonderful building, this new freshmen commons – we’re building a sense of the class and we want those people that we admit, that we are trying to build that so that it’s a wonderful experience for all. And if you don’t quite really know who you are, it’s not going to work.

Hopefully you’ve gotten something out of this transcript of the video and these summary college admissions tips.  Please leave a comment listing your main questions about getting into college.  Share this post!!!

Jan 052012

 Letters of Recommendation for College? Who Do You Ask to Write Them?

Note:  This is  part 9 of the transcript of the information contained in the video from VanderbiltUniversity about Applying for College – an Insiders Guide for Getting Into a Good College and it’s about getting admitted to college.

For the previous segment click below:

Getting Admitted to College: How Many People Decide if You Get In?

How many people see your application and have a say in whether is gets through?  Interesting to hear…


How do I choose who should write my letters of recommendation?

letters of recommendationWe want somebody who can talk about the applicant, who has seen their maturation over a period of time that can tell us the inside of their character, their background, their experiences. Then if it’s a Math teacher, a Science teacher, may be how they took on a particular research project, how they handled that, how they led the group or what have you versus kind of the, well a very good person. The good person does not cut it. So it is who really can talk about you, not who is the most important person you know that can write a letter.

Hopefully you’ll have a teacher or two that has seen your work in several classes. Or maybe there are a group of teachers that know each other and they talk about the students (in a good way) and you’re one that they talk about.  Maybe you have an adviser that knows you and also talks to your other teachers and can make a fair assessment about you in regards to schooling.

— The next article contains Tips from and Admission Insider!  You’ll want to read that. — The last segment of the transcript offers some tips for getting into college.

One trick that business people know is to write the letters of recommendation yourself for the person so they can easily sign and submit.  Maybe this isn’t quite appropriate in high school, however, you could certainly mention a few things you want your recommender to know or remember about your.

Finding the right people to write your letters of recommendation and write the correct stuff is quite important.

Dec 052011

Beating College Admissions Stress

Note:  This is  part 6 of the transcript of the information contained in the video from VanderbiltUniversity about Applying for College – an Insiders Guide for Getting Into a Good College and it’s about your Beating College Admissions Stress.

For the previous segment: High School Profile.  Your high school profile tells a lot about your school and how it compares to other high schools.

What can I do to ease some of the stress surrounding the college admissions process?

When I talked to students a lot and then I say, “Tell me the schools that you are looking at.” And they ran a lot of 5 schools. Any of those schools, education is going to be superb.

college admissions stressWe are so fortunate in the United States to have the top higher education in the world. So the student will say,

“Here are my 5 choices and I feel that if I pick the wrong one -”

First of all, educationally, you can’t go wrong at any of them.

Second, extracurricularly, prestige-wise, you can’t go wrong at any of them.

And that brings us back to the fit – the ability to say, where do I look like I resonate, I feel like I could add to that community and be an active citizen is the critical piece.

What ends up happening though and is one thing that I help to reduce the stress is that I tell students; don’t make it a public discourse of the 29 schools that you are looking at.  Because all of a sudden if you are not admitted, you choose not to go there, you have everybody in what I call admissions cheap seats doing second guessing. It’s your life, it’s your choice. And so I find students.

College Admissions Stress Reduction Tip: Don’t tell the world about every college you are applying to.

And sometimes, parents in most cases, more parents – it becomes a reflection of the parent, the reflection of how I’ll be perceived at the Bridge Club, the Country Club, my business partners, my colleagues at work, where my child goes, and what we need to make sure we do is that you find the best fit so you will be successful. And sometimes if it becomes – I’m applying and they rattle off, all of these schools, then you don’t get in, then you feel embarrassed, you shouldn’t be embarrassed.

Part of this is getting out and trying where you see the fit. And so sometimes I say students should contain it a little more. The other thing is – my experience is this for what it’s worth. If a student has a certain SAT and they tell you, in most cases, it’s 50 points less.

Everybody, you know publicly wants to say, you know they never really wanted – you know the test score is one measure, one day for a handful of hours. We need it for a national norming, the ability to look for students from different school districts and corporations and high schools but that also becomes a stress.

That’s not a competition on who can get the best test score. It’s just simply not. That’s one variable but we tend to get caught up with who we are as a human and a number. Would we like the number to be higher? You bet. But that does not take away who you are as a unique, contributing individual to your family and to your community.

And if you can learn to separate that if I’m denied, it’s not denied because Dean Christianson is a bad person. He’s denied because the fit didn’t appear to be there and all the variables. Very different. And if it’s to internalize, it’s become very stressful and if you know the real concern I have is it may become very serious with some students right to the point of suicide or pre-suicide or attempt. I mean it’s very serious that you’ve got to be able to disassociate your self-esteem with the ones that were admitted.

The next article is about getting Financial Aid for College if your parents have good jobs.

Beating College Admissions Stress is important because you will get into college and stressing out doesn’t really help anything.

Nov 292011

High School Profile

Note:  This is  part 5 of the transcript of the information contained in the video from VanderbiltUniversity about Applying for College – an Insiders Guide for Getting Into a Good College and it’s about your High School Profile.

For the previous segment: AP Classes

You high school profile tells a lot about your school and how it compares to other high schools.

How do colleges find out about the quality and size of my high school?

High School Profile - Niles West High School

Every student here at Vanderbilt and then again in any of these schools that I’ve worked at or consulted with or been with, they require what is called a high school profile. And a high school profile is a profile of the high school that lets us know the courses offered, the rigor of that curriculum, this lets us know of the students how many AP, IBs that were offered.

Lets us know how many go on to college and lets us know – we look for mean distributions within and distribution of A, B, C, and D, the class rank, percentile. Because we are looking at the competitiveness of the environment because that environment may be different from another school environment and that’s where we started getting that a 4.0 at one school may not be a 4.0 at another school. You’re looking at the curriculum, the rigor..

Next up is about college admissions stress reduction.

Your parents determine where you live and go to high school.  Not much you can do about your high school profile.

Nov 252011

Applying for College?  Do sports and extracurricular activities make a difference in your college applications?

Note:  This is  part 2 of the transcript of the information contained in the video from VanderbiltUniversity about Applying for College – an Insiders Guide for Getting Into a Good College.

Follow this here to read part one (the previous post)  about getting into a good college using other things that your grades.

Sports and Extracurricular Activities

Remember when we talked about being involved. Being involved does not mean 95 clubs. It may be a handful, but how did you participate? So for example, maybe you really wanted to be in program X, Y, and Z and could not do it in school.

What did you find in your community? What did you find in your local area? Or what have you? Because again, you need to participate but you have to be able to look at lots of venues to do that.

Applying for College Is a Job!

applying for collegeWe also can look at a school where perhaps, has – I hate giving numbers but for just purposes of description – maybe school that has 60 or 70 students in a class. We look – you have to look there – the opportunities to a school that had 800 in the same class.

Again, so that’s where we are understanding and contextualizing your high school. So we are trying to look at that in one school, they may only be in two things because of the sheer number, they can’t be in anything else.

Or in a lot of times, there are just schools that even limit the number of extracurriculars that are the main core of extracurriculars at the school you can have. Versus a smaller school, you may be wearing multiple hats because you got to do that to keep the school running, to keep that environment.

So again we would look at both sides of that equation and it’s all about you, your application, and who you are as we think about you joining this community. Not you in relationship to everyone else.

The next part of the transcript is about preparing for college, the college  essay.  That will be up tomorrow.

So, when applying for college there is more that just good grades required to get into the college of your choice.

Nov 232011

Getting Into a Good College – What helps Besides Grades?

Note:  This is a partial transcript of the information contained in the video from VanderbiltUniversity about Applying for College – an Insiders Guide for Getting Into a Good College.

Remember, it’s more than just academic preparation. It is how am I vested into the community? How am I vested in my high school or junior high? What clubs, organizations or extra-curricular events that I participate in? Am I adding value? Am I making a difference? It’s not just a litany of “I’m in 20 clubs.” We would much prefer to see a student who has few clubs but they have vested themselves and have made true difference in their lives and in other people’s lives, whatever that maybe. As opposed to a bunch of clubs where the reality at the end of the day, you participated but there was really no true reflective change.

getting into a good collegeAnother would be, “Maybe I’m doing a little less in my high school but I am very involved in a particular medical or environmental cause.” So I mean with the different professional organizations or non-profits within my community. Those would be the same thing. It is participating and saying I’m passionate and I want to help make a difference, whatever that difference is. And again, we are not judging what the topic is. We’re judging: did you take hold and grabbed it and moved forward.

The issue here is that you took hold of something and made a difference and that you vested yourself. You were excited, you were passionate. Those are the things that we would be looking for, not just a type of student. Remember, our goal in building, whether you are looking at Vanderbilt or any school that’s highly selective elite school like Vanderbilt. What you’re looking at is, or what we’re looking at is building a community. If everybody was just involved in one activity, what a boring community we will be developing. It is the individual strength of each person coming – the sum of those make a great class.

The next part of this getting into a good college transcript is called “How important are extracurricular activities and sports when applying for college?”

That was about getting into a good college with other important factors than grades.

Mar 252010

The video below has a ton of useful information about applying for college.

  • We have provided a transcript of this video that covers many useful points to consider when applying for college.
  • Each section of the transcript is on a new page.
  • You can get to the next part of the article by clicking the link at the bottom or the article, or use the links at the right.
  • Go through each article.

“Since my daughter has gone through this process and gotten into a really great university (Johns Hopkins) with a great 4 year scholarship (The Hodson Trust Scholarship) , I can confirm that this information is valid and useful.  She did most everything this gentleman recommended about applying for college.  It works.”

The topics covered are below and each will be posted on a separate page for easier reading.  There is a link back to this page from each post if you want to watch the video.

Applying for College Tips



Read here –> For the firsts transcript about applying for college titled “Other than my grades, what can I do to better my chances of getting into a good college?”

Mar 232010

College Application Essay

Some important advice on writing your college application essay is to make sure it sounds like you and that you write it yourself.  You can have another person go over your essay to make grammatical correction but you are going to want it to sound like YOU.

Maybe you don’t think that you are a great writer.  It doesn’t matter.  There are plenty of people that go to school that are not the best writers in the world.  But you need to get your points across about the truly unique person that you are.

After you watch this video about how to write a college application essay you may want to see what an expert college recruiter has to say about your college application essay.  We have a transcript of that portion of the video as well as the entire video about getting into college – the one of your choice.



Write your College Application Essay to Show Off Something Unique About You

Don’t be shy about some of the things you are interested in.  There is a good chance that some college recruiter will find it fascinating!  If you make hybrid geraniums or are a rock climber put this into your college application essay; chances are you’re going to impress someone with that information and you may end up with a pretty goo scholarship to boot!