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21 Questions You Should Be Asking College Admissions Reps

Saturday, April 18, 2020

While high school buildings are shuttered, college campuses are closed to visitors, and many of us are home sheltering in place, the online world is buzzing. Virtual college fairs - webinars - FaceBook Live events -- there are copious opportunities for curious juniors -- and even seniors -- to continue a fruitful college search.

Connecting with college representatives and current students in person is preferable making socially-distant connections, but face it: A junior has to do what a junior has to do. Fortunately, there are loads of colleges out there kicking off ways to connect with prospects.  There is endless information available to curious parents and students involved in the college search process!

Learning starts with asking good questions, but what sorts of questions are useful for getting more out of online college presentations?  And after all, aren't college websites full of information? 

Here are 21 questions that students might find useful for kicking off a conversation -- or maybe these raise still additional questions that you had not yet thought of.  Some of these might be best posed to the Admission Office, while others, such as "What do students say they would like to change at the school?" or "What is the straight story about substance use at this school?" would be best put in front of a peer student.

Here is an extensive list to check out -- along with a live link to a handy worksheet that features more Great Questions to Explore With College Admissions Representatives

Turn to these 21 questions during your college search process:

  1. What is the process for financial aid application?
  2. What do students say they would like to change at the school?
  3. Am I guaranteed freshman housing? After freshman year, where do students live?
  4. Describe the opportunities for students to sample different academic areas.
  5. How common is minoring or double majoring?
  6. What leadership opportunities are there for freshmen or sophomores?
  7. How students in (my major) begin to make contacts via the school for jobs or internships?
  8. What does the school do to support healthy lifestyles? ex. healthy food; healthy activity; alternatives to drugs or alcohol
  9. What are the study abroad programs like at your school? Requirements to be eligible?
  10. Describe core or distribution requirements. How flexible are these?
  11. How do you handle advance credit? ex. AP; IB; outside college credits.
  12. Describe student safety concerns on campus. How about safety in the local community?
  13. What is the path for research work with professors?
  14. How does faculty advising work at your school?
  15. Tell me about the most popular areas of study at your school.
  16. How big is the XYZ Department at your school? Is it growing?
  17. Describe the most popular activities for students during the weekend.
  18. What opportunities are there for merit scholarship?
  19. How do students get to and from campus? How close would I be to an airport; rail or bus stations?
  20. What is the connection like between students on campus and the local community?
  21. Anything else that is on your mind about the student learning and living experience...?

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Marla Platt, M.B.A. is an independent college consultant based in Sudbury, MA through AchieveCoach College Consulting, providing personalized guidance to students and families throughout the college planning, search and admissions process. Marla is a professional member of the Independent Educational Consultants Association and NACAC and can be reached via www.achievecoach.com

While Waiting to Hear

Monday, December 03, 2018

As college application season begins to slowly wind down, just as surely senior anticipation begins to ramp up!

With Early Action applications at some institutions due as early as October 15, colleges have begun to issue admission decisions to early applicants.

Early Decision candidates, applying to college under a binding one-choice agreement if admitted, typically see deadlines around November 1 or November 15.  Many colleges render their official Early Decision or Early Action decisions sometime around the third week in December, shortly before year end. Still, other schools offer Rolling Admission, issuing responses in succession as they review completed applications.

After all the effort invested into researching, visiting and applying to colleges, waiting can be a tricky game. Following the relief that comes after completing applications, teenage tensions can run high, whether students display their anxiety in the open or keep it under wraps. Parents, in the midst of the waiting game, may report that students display moody behavior or find it difficult to focus. And for the majority of students, the suspense of awaiting admissions decisions over the span of 3 - 4 months during the Regular Decision admissions timeline is something they are wholly unaccustomed to while living in an age of quick turnarounds and immediate feedback.

WHAT PARENTS CAN DO

Adults have a greater capacity to understand what is feels like to wait and manage the tension around uncertainty. Teaching teens to focus on the present moment and turning attention to the near term is a life skill that will serve them well in their near and distant futures. Not to mention that looking ahead, senior year practically evaporates, encouraging even more reason to focus on family time and maintaining relationships and activities in the here and now. Amazingly, you can now almost count on one hand the number of months remaining until high school graduation.

BUILDING BLOCKS IN THE PRESENT

While waiting for colleges’ decisions to arrive, it is key to be fully present in the "here and now" in order to build the best outcomes for the future. While awaiting decisions, students still need to own their responsibility of maintaining strong classroom performance.

Not only will continuing to build strong academic skills serve in the future while pursuing advanced education, it is an immediate necessity: Colleges will want to receive a final transcript reflecting the level of past performance and academic commitment demonstrated back at the time of application. Some schools may even ask for interim grade reports, including Quarter 1 or Semester 1 grades. Even if admitted under Early Decision or Early Action with a deposit paid to hold a seat in the freshman class, colleges reserve the right to retract acceptances if grades drop noticeably.  Yes, this happens!

TAKEAWAY

Stay the course and keep an eye on my perennially favorite "Three C’s” : Calm + Caring + Commitment.  Keep it up, students and parents!  And avoid temptation to take your eye off the road -- your colleges are still watching!

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Marla Platt, M.B.A. is an independent college consultant based in Sudbury, MA through AchieveCoach College Consulting,  providing personalized guidance to students and families throughout the college planning, search and admission process. Marla is a professional member of the Independent Educational Consultants Association and NACAC.  Contact Marla via www.achievecoach.com  

Hanging Out In Waitlist City

Wednesday, May 02, 2018

Decision letters have been mailed out and the National Reply Date deadline of May 1 is here and gone. It's time to heave a happy sigh because the college application process for most seniors is finally in the rear-view mirror -- but not for all. For some applicants, the final story is an inconclusive one if placed on a waitlist, meaning they technically are not rejected -- but neither are they accepted. From Boston to Seattle, Portland to Miami, the trend many students are seeing is not admission, not rejection, but instead one of "no decision."

What's Behind the Waitlist Game?

In order to manage yield rates, an ever-important factor that goes into USNWR rankings (and you know not to pay any mind to a magazine's rankings, yes?) colleges have increasingly been playing a waitlist game that serves only to help them manage their acceptance/attendance numbers. By waitlisting applicants, colleges afford themselves flexibility because they can later pull in additional students after extensive review of initial acceptees who actually take their offered spot. Striking is the fact that it is not unusual for colleges to waitlist hundreds, if not thousands, of applicants, in some cases waitlisting more than the entire freshman class population.

How to Approach the Waitlist

First, recognize that at many schools the waitlist is little more than a holding pattern. If offered a spot on a college's waitlist, students need to confirm right away their intention to accept a spot. And then what? According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, students need to carefully follow directions for next steps required by the school. In general, waitlisted students can continue to express interest by writing a brief letter to admissions expressing sincere commitment to attending and WHY; forwarding any new and improved test scores; updating strong final grades; a new and insightful recommendation; notification about significant awards or achievements.

Know that unlike waiting in line for a seat on an over-sold flight, there is no "position number" on the waitlist. Another consideration for waitlisted students, in addition to continued weeks of uncertainty, is the likelihood that financial aid funds will be spoken for by the time colleges comb their waitlists for possible admits.

Hope springs eternal in the world of college admissions but, because movement on waitlists is typically slow and infrequent, the best approach is to deposit where accepted, proudly purchase the school T-shirt and commit to attend. Most students would be gratified to know that the schools that have accepted them view them as a fit and an asset to the school community. So celebrate your well-earned success: Woo-hoo and congratulations to all our seniors and their families!!

Image Credit: Rob Dobi
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Marla Platt, M.B.A. is an independent college consultant based in Sudbury, MA through AchieveCoach College Consulting, providing personalized guidance to students and families throughout the college planning, search and admissions process. Marla is a professional member of the Independent Educational Consultants Association and can be reached via www.achievecoach.com  



Coming to YOUR High School This Fall

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Starring regional admissions representatives from your favorite colleges!

Aside from reading applications, one of the front-and-center responsibilities for admissions representatives is visiting high schools in their assigned regions. These folks ride the open roads and fly the friendly skies to promote their colleges across their respective territories -- and to gain a flavor of the high schools their applicants come from.   Commonly, the most likely point of contact between students and college representatives is at junior and senior small group presentations at the local high school.  

By attending a college presentation, students have the chance to directly ask college-related questions as well as learn more about new programs; what the school may require in the application process; scholarship or merit opportunities; and more.  

Some high schools publish a broad schedule of representative visits well ahead of time, while others do so week by week. It's a student's responsibility to keep an eye on visit schedules, usually posted through the Guidance department, lest they miss a visiting rep and a potentially valuable opportunity to introduce themselves and learn more about the college.  It is worth noting that at some high schools, students must adhere to a policy of requesting advance permission to leave class to attend a rep's info session and, realistically speaking, teachers may be unlikely to grant permission if there is in-class testing that day.

What if the student can only attend a portion of the session?  Even if the student can only manage a five-minute "drive by," he can still demonstrate interest by introducing himself to the representative and requesting a business card.  Not all colleges visit every high school of course, so a prospective applicant can always reach out to schools independently and initiate contact through a pertinent question or two.  

Whether a student is just beginning to college shop or is just about ready to finalize her research, an intimate high school-centered presentation can bring helpful perspective to which college -- and why!

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Marla Platt, M.B.A. is an independent college consultant based in Sudbury, MA through AchieveCoach College Consulting, providing personalized guidance to students and families throughout the college planning, search and admissions process. Marla is a professional member of the Independent Educational Consultants Association and can be reached via www.achievecoach.com

Writing the College Essay

Monday, August 07, 2017


For the majority of high school students, writing college essays feels like a bit of a curse when in fact it truly presents a potential blessing-in-disguise. Why a blessing? Because the kind of writing that the admissions essay calls for,  an engaging story that broadly invites students to portray who they are and how they tick, has the potential to bring the student "to life" in what often seems like an impersonal selection process. 

If I may offer up a basic recipe for writing success, it starts with the writer choosing a topic they individually relate to.  

Picking a good story is essential -- one that the writer is energized or moved to share. Engaging essays convey a sense of individual values or personal passion about a particular interest or a unique approach to a challenge -- almost any of wide-range of possible stories that convey a strong sense of the student.  Add a scoop of personality, a dash of character, tossed with a sprinkle of personal insight, and seniors will have the winning ingredients for writing success.

It's also helpful to consider what to avoid in effective writing.  A recent article in The New York Times hits the nail on the head (oops, overused expression!), adding more when it comes to approaches writers need steer clear of.

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Marla Platt, M.B.A. is an independent college consultant based in Sudbury, MA through AchieveCoach College Consulting, providing personalized guidance to students and families throughout the college planning, search and admissions process. Marla is a professional member of the Independent Educational Consultants Association and can be reached via www.achievecoach.com


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