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.