When I was a new Admission Counselor in my first job right out of grad school, I remember my Admission Director mentioning that as many of her friends’ children approached high school age, her job suddenly seemed to make her more popular at parties. There is a perception, I think, among parents and students that the college admission process is so elusive and complex that understanding it, and more importantly influencing it, is becoming increasingly difficult. This is probably true for students applying to the most selective institutions where many more qualified students are turned away than admitted. But for students applying to the vast majority of institutions in the US, this process is not nearly as much of a game as they think.
A recent blog entry on the Huffington Post called 6 College Admission Myths: Busted is a good start to bringing more transparency to students and families, but many of these myths and much of the advice on college planning and admission out there only applies to traditional students vying for coveted seats at highly selective schools. We know that more and more college students today do not fit this typical student mold, and that the overwhelming majority will enroll at institutions that WILL accept them if they are academically qualified. Here are the myths busted on HuffPost, and my own thoughts on how we address each myth at an institution that prides itself on providing access to all students who demonstrate an ability to be academically successful:
Myth #1: “A college sent me information, so they are likely to accept me if I apply.” At a highly selective school, this post suggests, applications will be encouraged of students who are unlikely to get in to shrink the acceptance rate, and thus improve rankings. (PS, I have a lot to say on the topic of rankings — I’ll talk about this in an upcoming post). While admission is never a given because we don’t have complete information about a student’s academic background until we receive an application, most of us are making a well-educated guess (based on what we DO know about you) that you’d be a great fit at our school and we’re honestly hoping to add YOU to our student body. We get most of our student data from College Board and ACT, so we have self reported GPA and PSAT/SAT/AP/ACT/PLAN or other scores to work from. However, test scores are only part of the picture for most of us reviewing applications. Leading us to Myth #2…
Myth #2: “High scores on the SAT/ACT are all I need to gain acceptance into a selective school.” Highly selective schools and the rest of us look at this topic in a similar way, though our median scores of admitted students differ. They are only part of the overall assessment of preparation for college. Many colleges and universities even choose to be test-optional, recognizing that test scores do not always accurately reflect a student’s potential. (see www.fairtest.org). At Ursuline, we use testing to assess college readiness but also factor in curriculum, grades, grade trends, writing ability, recommendations from teachers/counselors, and personal experience/qualities to make admission decisions. We don’t require test scores at all from transfer students with 30 or more credits earned at community colleges or other colleges/universities — so there are pathways to great colleges without these tests.
Myth #3: “The application process begins when I start my senior year.” In fact, for applicants to highly selective colleges and universities, and those with more generous admission policies, the process starts in 9th grade, and some might even contend that it begins even earlier than that. We always use cumulative GPA in the admission process, and though we look at grade trends (upward trajectory since that really awful 9th grade year?) the cumulative GPA is what we’ll use for scholarship consideration. Similarly, the depth and breadth of leadership, service, and other activities is generally preferred to involvement in a large number of activities in which there is no time to make a real contribution to any of them. The simple truth: a student who goes into HS with a strong work ethic and academic foundation, and then works hard in a college preparatory curriculum, particularly pursuing the most challenging math and English classes from 9th grade on will find better success on the ACT/SAT, in the classroom, and thus, with applications to 4-year colleges.
Myth #4: “The listed tuition price is what I must pay.” Of course not. For most students at most colleges, we offer financial need-based aid and merit aid (scholarships) to help students afford our institutions. There are now scholarship calculators and net-price calculators on college and university websites to help you set expectations for what the unique cost will be for your family.
Myth #5: “My social media activities aren’t being monitored by admissions officers.” While most of us don’t make a habit of regularly monitoring the social media output of our applicants (hey, we’re pretty busy doing other things), students should be aware that anything they put out on social media enters a public forum. If I couldn’t read your handwriting when you gave me your address, I might google it to get the right zip code. If you told me you were playing in the state championship for volleyball last weekend, I’ll probably google that too to see if your team won so that I can congratulate you! If you invite me to connect on Facebook, I’ll accept your request. Keep in mind that all of these harmless activities can lead a college admission officer to your social content. We always encourage students to keep it clean. 99% of the time, something we happen upon via Facebook or Twitter won’t effect your admission or scholarships at all, but it can certainly be embarrassing. It’s also good practice for the professional world.
Myth #6: “All I have to do is complete and submit an application.” Highly selective schools and the rest of us are trying to be more saavy with our resources, and thus, we track your demonstrated interest in our school, whether you visit, how often you call, etc. While this may weigh into admission and scholarship decisions at some highly selective schools, for most of us, it simply influences how frequently we communicate with you and through what channels. At Ursuline, when you tell us we’re a great fit for you based on your interaction with us, we’re going to spend more time contacting you too to help you through the process of enrolling with us!
On this blog, I’ll keep weighing in on topics that bring more transparency to the college application process for families and students!
To those currently applying to college, I hope you’ll apply to Ursuline!
Carolyn Noll Sorg is the Director of Undergraduate Admission at Ursuline College. Follow Carolyn on Twitter @UCAdmission.
What do you do when you’re a well-known media figure (with apparently no publicist or babysitter) and you accidentally post an embarrassing almost-nude photo of yourself all over the Internet? Well you delete it of course…only to realize that whatever ends up on the Internet will forever be immortalized, sorry Geraldo Rivera.
When Geraldo posted his nearly nude “selfie” on July 21, 2013 it seemed that nothing really had been done to his “image” as a media personality except for several –thousand- people criticizing his body and how creepy he was on Twitter. That was up until today when the story hit that his “selfie” had some unusual consequences in the form of cancelled events. That one photo was the reason that Duquesne University cancelled Geraldo’s appearance at the school due to the fact that the photo was “inappropriate and inconsistent” with the Catholic school’s values. Funny to think that a simple photo can ruin everything, but it sadly is true and it’s happening more than ever in today’s society of social media and instant gratification.
We are currently living in an age where everyone is acting as his or her own publicist in a way. Individuals are creating versions of themselves on the World Wide Web and not thoroughly thinking about the consequences. It has even been said that when job hunting, employers will not only Google but look up their potential employees on Facebook as well as Twitter to see how they truly portray themselves. We all need to take a moment to step back and realize that we are venturing into the marketing realm for ourselves as a brand whether we would like to see it that way or not.
So why is Geraldo Rivera relevant to this? Because he is us! He is every person who has posted something whether in writing or in photo form on the Internet only to regret it and realize that there are no “take-backs” online. So next time we decide to post that photo of us having a wild drunk fun night, let’s step back and realize that today the biggest thing we are marketing is ourselves (which is a huge deal considering the job market –or rather lack thereof!) and only we can act as our own reps. Value yourself as a brand and human being. Keep some things private, mystery is good!
And all I can think is THIS GUY IS 70!? Perhaps it’s time to focus on other things Twitterverse…
Author Bio: Gabrielle Banzhaf is a designer, maker, mother, gardener and caretaker living in Lakewood, OH with her son and partner. She graduated from the Cleveland Institute of Art with a BFA in Fiber & Material Studies and is currently pursuing a BA from Ursuline College in Public Relations & Marketing Communications. She enjoys spending time on her porch swing, splashing around with her little one, working in her wood shop & obsessing over Game of Thrones.