Applying to College

Rick Shaw, Stanford University, Answers Five Questions


Rick Shaw, Dean of Admission and Financial Aid at Stanford University, answers five questions for us this month as everyone heads to campus.

Stanford University was founded in 1891 by Jane and Leland Stanford in memory of their only child who died of typhoid fever. The 8,180-acre campus, designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, was originally the Stanford family's Palo Alto Stock Farm, used for the breeding and training of trotting horses and thoroughbreds. It is still affectionately called "The Farm." 

Today, the university's grounds include 800 different species of plants, 25 fountains, the 285-foot Hoover Tower that dominates its skyline, and an extensive collection of outdoor art -- Rodin's The Gates of Hell, the Papua New Guinea Sculpture Garden, Andy Goldsworthy's Stone River, as well as works by Henry Moore, Alexander Calder, Bruce Beasley, Maya Lin and more.

Colleges Know Who You Are and May See What You Do

What does your digital footprint look like? You may want to check it out. The use of social networking sites and Internet search engines in the admission process is on the rise. Increasing numbers of admission professionals are turning to Facebook, Twitter, Google and other online resources to learn more about prospective students.

Kaplan Test Prep's 2011 survey of college admission officers found that 24% of the colleges surveyed reported they have gone to an applicant's Facebook or other social networking page to learn more about them. That figure is up from 10% in 2008. Furthermore, 20% of schools have Googled applicants.  Kaplan also found that 12% percent of the admission officers who used social media or online tools found material that hurt the student's chance of admission -- usually postings of uncouth activities, plagiarism, alcohol use or other "illegal activities."

While most admission offices do not routinely follow a student's digital trail, students need to think about their use of social media and web presence -- including what others are saying about them online. Be aware that colleges may turn here to learn more about you. The internet has a long memory. Google yourself and see what comes up. A good rule of thumb going forward? Don't post anything you don't want a college admission officer -- or your grandmother -- to see.

College Admission in Sixth Printing


This week marks the one-year anniversary of the publication of College Admission: From Application to Acceptance, Step by Step and we received the perfect present. Our book has gone into a sixth printing! Thank you again to our readers -- students, parents, and counselors -- for your support and confidence in our book. And thank you to our teams at Crown Books and ICM. Also, look for us at your neighborhood Barnes & Noble this month. B&N has selected College Admission as part of its “Get Ready for School” campaign! 

Elite Colleges and Independent Counselors


For the last couple of weeks, we've been following a lively discussion in the wake of a blog post from Lynn O'Shaughnessy -- Elite Schools Dissing College Consultants. In her words, the blog post shares her take "on why I believe the Ivies and other elite schools routinely dump on independent college counselors. The use of high-priced consultants reminds these schools that the system is rigged and most students need to be rich to get into these institutions." Independent counselors, high school counselors and admission deans have weighed in via a discussion on LinkedIn and in the Comments section of her blog.

Like many issues in the application process, the decision to hire an independent counselor is complex. Students and their families must carefully consider the costs and benefits and the decision should be driven by the student.  In our book -- coauthored by a former dean of Stanford, Swarthmore, and Sarah Lawrence -- we take a very balanced approach, outlining the situations where an independent counselor can be a beneficial addition, with the main focus on how to find and properly evaluate a counselor for those who will go that route.

Jenny Rickard, Bryn Mawr College, Answers 5 Questions

Jenny Rickard, Chief Enrollment and Communications Officer at Bryn Mawr College, joins us this month to answer five questions about the private women's liberal arts college founded in 1885 "for the advanced education of females." Located in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, just ten miles west of Philadelphia, the 135-acre campus hosts approximately 1300 undergraduate women.  

With an 8-to-1 student faculty ratio, Bryn Mawr offers 36 majors, 38 minors, 8 concentrations, and the opportunity for students to develop independent courses of study. But Bryn Mawr students can choose from among more than 5,000 course offerings because of the cooperative relationship the school has with neighboring Haverford College and its ties to Swarthmore College and University of Pennsylvania.

NACAC Reviews College Admission

Thank you to Christopher Briggs, Assistant Director of Undergraduate Admission, Georgia Institute of Technology, for the excellent review of College Admission: From Application to Acceptance, Step by Step for the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC).  We love it when reviewers "get" the book --especially professionals in the field! You can read the review in its entirety here.  

Do Sweat the Small Stuff! Part 2

Today, Alice Kleeman continues her excellent blog post about the "small stuff" that can trip up a college application process. Here are more of the frequently glossed-over college-related tasks that can make a difference:

  • Your name

        Seems like a simple question, right?  But maybe you are Maria Juana Ortiz on your birth certificate, and Maria J. Ortiz at school, MJ to your friends, and Maria Juana Ortiz-Santos to your extended family.  Maybe you think that doesn’t matter.  But when a college is trying to join your SAT or ACT scores to your file; when a financial-aid office is trying to figure out whether the aid application it received belongs to you or someone else; when your diploma and final transcript carry different names -- under those circumstances, the name you provide can cause serious delays in processing important paperwork.  Choose one name for the college process and use it every time. 

        Since the Free Application for Federal Student AID (FAFSA) requires you to use the name on your Social Security card, you might as well use that one across the board.

        •     Application “extras”

DO Sweat the Small Stuff!

You’ve planned your strategy:  Take challenging classes—check!  Tackle the SAT or ACT and send your scores to colleges—check!  Choose teachers who know you well to write your letters of recommendation—check!  Create a college list and pare it down to a reasonable number—check!  Write that 500-word Common App essay—check!  Create an activities list—check!

Take care of those tasks, and you’ll be at the finish line, right?

Maybe not.  Many students, after tackling the college-related tasks they perceive to be most important, begin to relax and take the “small stuff” less seriously.  But taking the “small stuff” seriously can often make a real difference.

Consider some of the following frequently glossed-over college-related tasks:

•     Written communication

        Do you have a professional e-mail address (or at least one that’s not sketchy) to use when communicating with colleges?  An off-color address can create a questionable impression. 

        Are you prepared to write to college-admission offices in “real English,” not with texting shortcuts or slang?  u better b! 

Walter Pineda, Miami Country Day School

Walter Pineda is paying it forward. The Associate Director of College Counseling at Miami Country Day School in Miami, Florida, is a first-generation college graduate who attended college through the help of a counselor. When his family emigrated to the United States when he was four years old, “I was at a disadvantage from other students,” says Pineda. “How to apply, what does it take, how to pay for it, what you do to pay for it – it was foreign to all of us. It was the help of a counselor and resources I could find in the library that enabled me to apply.”

After graduating from University of Rochester, Pineda began his own career in college counseling at Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts. Five years ago, he joined the staff at Miami Country Day, a diverse coeducational K through 12 school with approximately 975 students. The upper school has a strong college preparatory program that includes a commitment to community service — a culture that Pineda says he particularly appreciates.

As our Counselor of the Month, Pineda shares his advice for students and families here in our Q&A: