Monday, November 22, 2010

Reveal Your Gifts

To close out this month's focus on applications, I thought I would connect you to a pro on the topic. In April, by popular demand, we are bringing back to campus author of the book, Winning the Admission Game, and former Dean of Admission at Franklin and Marshall, Peter Van Buskirk.

Today Mr. Buskirk blogged on the topic of applications and provided some shimmering insights. His blog title, "Reveal Your Gifts".

In preparing your applications for admission, it is important to remember that the application you submit is like a personal statement. You are saying to the admission committee, “This is who I am and what I have to offer.” In a tight competition, your ability to make a compelling statement in this regard can make all the difference.

It is critical, then, to bring your talent to life. If you are a musician, make a studio quality recording. Audition if you can. If you are an artist, attend portfolio days or assemble a portfolio of your work to submit with your application. This demonstration of talent will be required for entry into highly selective conservatory or specialty programs in the arts. It can also make the difference for you at schools that value the arts but are not pre-professionally oriented. You do not need to have professional aspirations as an artist, musician, actor or dancer in order for your talent to give you a competitive edge in the selective admission process.

To read the rest of this article click here.

Monday, November 15, 2010

10 Warning Signs That the Senior's Family is Losing It

I came across this Top 10 list posted on our faculty billboard.

I'm always a sucker for Top 10 lists.

Here then are the Top 10 warning signs that your whole family may be losing its grip on reality thanks to the college admission process:

10. Son ignores State Department travel warning in order to seek re'sume' building community service experience among Kurdish separatists near the Iraq-Turkey border.

9. Daughter complains that classmate who uses a wheelchair has a better college essay topic.

8. Son is distressed that the SAT does not offer extra-credit problems.

7. Mom has a sudden falling out with best after the best friend's daughter is accepted early at Yale.

6. Dad proclaims that only SAT vocabulary words may be used in dinner conversations.

5. The family hires a private investigator to verify that the student's great-great-grandfather was half Cherokee.

4. Thanksgiving dinner conversation is devoted to critiquing essay drafts.

3. Daughter memorizes Tiers 1 and II of the US News National University rankings.

2. Mom searches the Web for a car-window decal that says "also accepted at..."

1. Message on the family answering machine notes that daughter is a National Merit Semifinalist.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Application Madness, A Response

In response to the application madness gripping our country, here are my thoughts and advice:

Avoid the Easy. A lot of the application volume stems from an emerging trend among adolescents. Colleges are picking up on the fact that seniors either want to apply to schools with the easiest application (that's code for no essays), or find the easiest way to apply to the most schools (that's code for Common Application). "Snap apps" and other free or abridged applications are capitalizing off of this "easy" mentality. But in the end, most of the students who take the easier route, either find a dead end at the end of the road, or they discover that the road lacked any real satisfaction. My advice then: Take the time then to fill out the harder application. When you choose to write an essay or two, it will not only give you a greater sense of fulfillment when you submit it, but you will also communicate to the college a greater sense of interest.

Broaden the Bull's Eye.
Too often we think that if we apply to more selective schools, it will increase our chances of getting into one. My response: Imagine you’re an archer. The target stands 1000 feet away. The bull’s eye is the size of a pea. According to Bill Fitzsimmons, dean of admissions at Harvard, that’s your odds at getting into a Top 20 University – about 3% without an admissions advantage. The fallacy here is to think that if you apply to all 20 schools that you will broaden the bull’s eye. Fitzsimmons' response: All a student has done is drawn a circle around the same pea-size target 20 times. My advice then: shorten the distance to the target and broaden the bull’s eye. This means then that you apply to more schools where your GPA and test scores fall into the median range. And it also means looking at Naviance, analyzing objectively via scatter grams where the Casady threshold for acceptance is, and applying to more schools where your circle on that scatter gram graph falls squarely within the green boxes. By doing this, you will significantly increase your chances of hitting your target.

Debunk the Myth of Fit. In our office we have punted the term "first choice" college. The myth of fit is that there is only one college that was meant for me. The truth is that there are a number of colleges that fit your foot like a glass slipper. Most of our seniors believe this now. The fact that we only have 4 ED applications validates this. Polygamy, in this singular case, is a good thing. Loving many schools, especially schools that have a reputation for loving many students (85% of colleges and universities admit 50% or more), can turn a fear-ridden journey into a fun-filled adventure. Too often we get our heart set on that one school, and then the whole college search process gets tainted forever by bitterness when we are rejected. I can't tell you how much more fun I would have had at my senior prom if I hadn't asked the one girl who had a college boyfriend. Her "no" made that night miserable for me. Your prom night college-wise doesn't have to be a bummer. What I've always found ironic is how schools like Stanford and Harvard have gained more lovers by spurning them. Their desirability is increased by marketing rejection.

Reach Out where there has been Out Reach.
One of our program's strengths involves outreach. Over the past couple years, Casady School has made a serious commitment to reaching out to colleges and universities all over the country. Mr. Hoven and I have now visited almost a 100 schools (you will find this list on our web page). That's not even including the national conferences and colloquies that we have attended. By reaching out, we have been able to network with admissions officers, tell them what makes Casady unique, and let them tell us what makes their college unique. Colleges, especially along the coast, that no longer have the budget to send reps out to the Midwest, really appreciate our gesture. Most importantly, we are now able to pick up a phone or pull out a business card and call/email a dean or rep on our student's behalf. By doing this, we can help a student go from a specter to a story, from a number to a name, and from two dimensional to three dimensional. This also means that our students (and families) have an opportunity to reach out because of our outreach and graft into the connective tissue of relationship that has already been formed.

Be not afraid.
So often we allow fear to drive our decisions. It's essentially part of America's DNA. All you have to do, for example, is go to an airport to experience it. What's the terrorist level today? Yellow? Orange? Red? Or just turn on the local news. What's the journalistic rule of thumb: If it bleeds, it leads? Or just head north on I-35 into Kansas just past Emporia, and you will find signs aligning the highways like, "Accept Jesus Christ or REGRET IT FOREVER", or my favorite, "Stop, Drop, and Roll Won't Work in Hell". I think you get the picture. My hope then is that faith will replace fear. Perfect love, the apostle John writes, casts away fear. Faith takes root in us when we realize that we are loved by our divine Creator. Inevitably that will spill over into every other facet of life, including the college search.

Last year 74% of our seniors' applications were greeted with love and a glass slipper. When Chris Bright announced that statistic at graduation, there was an eruption of warm applause. In that moment, graduation felt more like a wedding where we celebrated the matches that had been made between seniors and colleges. There is no reason that graduation at Casady can't be more like a wedding ceremony every year.

Friday, November 5, 2010

The Application Madness Reality

It's all over Facebook and Twitter today.

As of 10:55 am, I've already counted five "re-tweets" of the article published by both The Times and The Chronicle.

It's the hot-button topic of the season.

Application inflation and the pressures that college admissions are under to increase their applicant pool and decrease their acceptance pool.

Here's a little sampling from the article, entitled, "Application Inflation: Bigger Numbers Mean Better Students, Colleges Say. But When is Enough Enough?"

The numbers keep rising, the superlatives keep glowing. Each year, selective colleges tout their application totals, along with the virtues of their applicants.

For this fall's freshman class, the statistics reached remarkable levels. Stanford received a record 32,022 applications from students it called "simply amazing," and accepted 7 percent of them. Brown saw an unprecedented 30,135 applicants, who left the admissions staff "deeply impressed and at times awed." Nine percent were admitted.

To read the rest of the article click here. (Cautionary note: For senior parents and students who just filed applications to some of the schools mentioned in this article, I am fearful this article will only raise anxiety levels from orange to red. But at the same time, this article speaks the harsh truth about what's happening in selective college admissions. There are agendas in play that have nothing to do with education and nothing to do with the student's best interests.)

So what does all this application madness mean for Casady students?

That's the question I will attempt to answer carefully and thoughtfully in the next blog post.

Stay tuned.

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Application Season, Part 3

At NACAC last month in St. Louis, I attended a seminar on the "creep trend" that's spreading across our high school landscape.

More students are applying earlier and earlier.

This stems from a shared concern among seniors that if they don't apply early there might not be a spot left in the spring.

And there is a shared concern among parents that there might not be any money left in the spring.

Just yesterday, consequently, the Times did an article on this trend. The article's title gives away the overarching thesis: applying early is the new black.

So I thought I would test this thesis a bit.

Based on data I gathered from Naviance, here is a November 1 Application Report for our Class of 2011:

Total Applications: 148
Total Colleges: 64
Early Action Applications: 52
Early Decision Applications: 4
Regular/Rolling Decision Applications: 87
Priority Applications: 2

Right now about 35% of our pending applications are earmarked for "Early". This is really about the same percentage as last year. Our overall volume of early applications, however, is significantly up versus last year. Last year at this time we had about 75 total applications pending versus 148 this year. This year's spike mainly reflects the number of Casady seniors who have applied to state universities.

In lieu of this trend, the glaring irony is the fact that while students are applying earlier and earlier, the vast majority are waiting later and later to decide their final choice.

My guess is that we will see this same trend within our own community. This stems largely from the fact that our students tend to fall in love with many schools. This is one reason why our team has punted the word "first choice". Our students and families value choices - plural.

Our goal then is to help students apply to a range of schools across the spectrum of admission selectivity in order to ensure that they have choices.

Last year almost all of our seniors were admitted to 2 or more colleges.

We hope to continue that trend this year. Stay tuned.