Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Dear Mr. Bottomly Part B

This is a continuation of a e-mail conversation I had with a 9th grade parent.

Parent's e-mail:

Would the classes he takes in the 12th grade be counted for college admission since the decisions will be made before he can have the final grades of the courses?

He has been getting good grades (A and above). What else should he do to make himself stand out? He has been playing the Cello since 6 years old and is quite good at it, but he is not very good at sports. He does not know which direction he wants to develop into at the moment, i.e., science or humanity. He likes both. Is it good for him to have an emphasis at this stage?

My response:

The "senior myth" tends like a siren to seduce many senior students. The myth is this: senior courses and grades don't really count. That's the year every student "lets of the petal a bit" and puts it on cruise control.


Senior course selection and grades do count - especially the more selective the school. Sometimes though students will apply what is called EA, which stands for Early Action, or ED, which stands for Early Decision. In this case, a student will apply before November 1 and hear back sometime before or right after Christmas. Typically, then, a college will make decision about this student before Casady senior grades are sent out. However, just because colleges won't see the senior's fall grades, the colleges will see on the Casady transcript the course selection - this of course which the colleges will intensely scrutinize. So yes, it is important to combine judicious course selection with exigent course performance.

In response to your other questions.

As far as what else – if your son loves the Cello then encourage him to keep pursing that passion. Colleges are not looking for breath as much as depth. Quality over quantity. “Demonstrated Passion” is what I like to call it – whether it is playing the Cello or riding a horse of playing athletics. In addition, I’d at least consider looking at summer learning programs [not necessarily “leadership” programs] either in the US at a Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Stanford, Duke or outside of the US at an Oxford. There are always summer program opportunities that we put up on our college counseling board. Encourage your son to come by and look for opportunities.

I’d also encourage you to help your son find a job. Sometimes expensive programs
smack of privilege; a job, in contrast, speaks of responsibility. The Dean of Harvard, Bill Fitzsimmons, told me last summer: “A job at McDonald’s is more impressive to our committee than any leadership program a kid attends. “

I’d also encourage you to purchase the book Winning the College Admission Game by Peter Van Buskirk. You can click here to purchase the book. Peter WILL BE COMING TO CASADY IN SEPTEMBER to speak to students and parents 9th-11th grade. Mark that date when we post it. You won’t want to miss him!