Archive for September, 2009

Mistakes to Avoid

Tuesday, September 29th, 2009

Ten Ways to Ruin Your College Acceptance Chances 

By Jay Mathews
Washington Post Staff Writer
October 1

With just a month before the deadline for early action and early decision applications to many colleges, I offer these examples of wrong-headedness in the admissions process. Many were sent to me by Joseph M. Connolly, a guidance counselor at New Oxford High School in New Oxford, Pa., who has seen much on the job and in postings from counselors and admissions officers to the National Association for College Admission Counseling Web site. Members of my Washington Post discussion group “Admissions 101” also contributed.

Remember, these are things you should NOT do.

1. Rack up as many extra points as you can for “expressed interest” in your favorite colleges. This particular obsession was new to me. Connolly has encountered applicants who have inundated admissions offices with voicemails, e-mails and snail mail because they have heard that colleges want concrete indications of interest and don’t think you can overdo it. Believe me, you can. “There is a fine line between showing adequate interest in the school and stalking,” Connolly said. “Unsolicited cakes, pies, cookies, sneakers (the old ‘one foot in the door’ trick), a life-sized statue of you holding an acceptance letter, or a painstakingly detailed scale model of the campus clock tower will not make up for a lackluster academic record.” When colleges look for “expressed interest,” that means they hope that you will show up when their college reps visit your school, that you will visit their campuses and sign the visitor logs in their admissions offices and that you will get your application in on time with no loose ends. If you have a legitimate question, they are happy to receive your e-mail or telephone call. Doing more than that just makes you look desperate, and a little scary. (Ed note: This is how to show interest.) (more…)

Some Students Strikeout Everywhere

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009

Some Students Strike Out Everywhere; Others Find ‘Safety’ Starts Looking Pretty Good


Erica A. Seldin finished in the top 5 percent of her class at Cherry Creek High School in suburban Denver, while taking a demanding curriculum that included 10 Advanced Placement courses. She received the highest score possible — five — on most of her AP tests. Ms. Seldin was also president of the school’s Thespian Society, acting in and directing a number of plays. So when it came to applying to college two years ago, she aimed high.

Ms. Seldin compiled a college list that she says included “one reach school, two good matches, and two safeties.” Her reach was Columbia University, to which she applied early decision. Her good matches were Amherst College and Washington University in St. Louis, and her safeties were Brandeis University and the University of Colorado at Boulder. “My counselors and teachers indicated my list was fine,” she recalls.