Applying to College

Thank you to Highland Park and Deerfield High Schools

Thank you, thank you… to the parents and counseling staffs of Highland Park High School in Highland Park, Illinois, and Deerfield High School in Deerfield, Illinois. College Admission spoke to the schools' parents of rising sophomores last night and it was a pleasure to hear about their hopes, dreams and concerns -- and answer their questions about grades, testing, interviews, and how to best guide their students through the next few years of college conversations. With special thanks to counselors Aliza Gilbert, Bill Morrison, Beth Gilfillan, and Kristen Thorburn.

Gluten-Free Reviews of College Dining Services

For students who require a gluten-free diet, the campus dining services require more than a stop for lunch after the official tour on a college visit. There's now a great new resource for such students to help them determine whether they can get the support they need. has published Gluten-Free Reviews of College Dining Services. Colleges appearing on the site must have either been reviewed by a student or parent or have been trained through the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness’s GREAT Kitchens Program, a designation that has been earned by such schools as University of Chicago, Drexel University and Emory University. The reviews offer detailed information on the services, flexibility and helpfulness of campus dining services. Apparently, some colleges rise to the occasion, some do not. This is a great resource for students, both during college visits and in considering where they may attend school.

Researching Colleges: Don't forget to Find out What Goes on in the Classroom

One of the mistakes we see students make in the college admissions process is failing to find out enough about the academic life of a school -- what actually goes on in the classrooms.  In a recent Chronicle of Higher Education piece, What We Don't Talk About on the Admissions Tour, James M. Lang, associate professor of English, director of the college honors program at Assumption College and parent to a member of the class of 2017, states the case for finding out as much about the teaching and learning as the food service on a college campus.

Like any parent of a prospective student at a residential college, we are preparing for our child to live on her own for the first time. What shape will that new life take? I want to be able to envision my daughter in her new room, and gain a sense of what her peers will be like, and know that she will have access to food and facilities that will allow her to lead a healthy lifestyle.

Mary Chase, Creighton University, Answers Five Questions

Change the world in Christ's image.

Study humankind.

Transform yourself and your community.

Seek truth in all you do.

Go forth and set the world on fire.


These principles of a Jesuit education as defined by St. Ignatius of Loyola are the foundation of the education and student life at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska. Mary Chase, Creighton's Associate Vice President for Enrollment Management, joins us this month to answer five questions about this private Roman Catholic school that is one of 28 Jesuit colleges and universities in the country.

Creighton was founded in 1878 with a bequest from Mary Lucretia Creighton in memory of her husband Edward, an Omaha businessman with interests in cattle ranching and banking and who played a role in the development of the transcontinental telegraph line. More than 130 years later, Creighton would become the first university to notify students of acceptance by text message.

The End of the Honeymoon and The Grass is Always Greener: Stages 5 and 6 in The Ten Stages of Transition from High School to College

The transition from high school to college, particularly for students who leave home and live in campus residence halls, is a challenge for nearly all students. However, some students find it more daunting than others.  Experienced counselors, both in high schools and on college campuses, have learned to recognize the stages that most students go through, beginning at the end of senior year, through the summer after graduation, and continuing through freshman year of college.  But most students have only a vague idea of what this transition will be like and are therefore stunned by the challenges they encounter.  First generation students, in particular, are likely to encounter surprises because their parents, having not attended college, haven’t had discussions with them about what to expect.

Today, educational psychologist Jane McClure continues her series that walks students and parents through what the future may hold with Stages 5 and 6 -- The End of the Honeymoon and The Grass Is Always Greener.  Her previous posts on Stages 1 and 2  in "The Transition from High School to College" -- The Summer of Transition and Separation Anxiety -- can be seen here and on Stages 3 and 4 -- The First Term and The Honeymoon -- can be seen here

Required Reading for Parents

"And of course none of it matters very much at all, none of these early successes, early failures. I wonder if we had better not find some way to let our children know this..."

In 1968 in the Saturday Evening Post, author Joan Didion published an essay on being denied admission at Stanford University. It's timeless commentary on dealing with rejection and the complex feelings stirred by that bitter pill many applicants face at some point in the application process. Didion rooted out her rejection letter as an object lesson for a 17-year-old niece going through the process and then employed it as an opportunity to appraise the college admission landscape -- an appraisal that is surprisingly relevant in 2013. Enjoy...

On Being Unchosen by the College of One's Choice

Juniors: Start a summer reading list...

Read, read, read… There are many theories about education, but there is one fact. The key to doing well in school and getting into college is reading.  It improves grades, test results, and is the best predictor of whether students will succeed in college. So, start working on your summer reading list now because the best feeder school to the college of your choice is -- or your local library.

If your school doesn't provide a summer reading list, create your own. Need ideas? Check out “101 Great Books Recommended for College-Bound Readers”. Or Google “summer reading lists for high school students." Ask at your local library.  And bookstores often have the summer reading lists for all local high schools. Then, read, read, read…


Seniors: Moving on from a Denial


There are many reasons a student may receive a denial letter. The application process is all about you and showing colleges who you are but the decision process is often more about the colleges and their priorities. Don’t take it personally. You weren’t denied— your application was. Probably the last thing you want to hear is that it’s important to learn to deal with rejection, but it is a valuable life lesson. Life isn’t fair and neither is the college admission process. The majority of students who apply to selective colleges are qualified to attend, but there simply isn’t room.

If you have been denied at a college on your list, let yourself feel disappointed. Don’t pretend it didn’t happen. Talk with your parents and friends about it— or not. Post your rejection letter on the wall of shame— or not. The choice is yours. Where you have been accepted or denied is your business and no one else’s unless you choose to share that information. And don’t worry that you may have disappointed your parents, teachers, or others in your life. They want what is best for you, which is to move on and be happy about the choices you do have. So allow yourself to feel sad, but don’t wallow in feelings of disappointment for too long. Move on. Now you get to make a choice among the schools that said yes. 


Juniors: How to ask Teachers for Recommendations

Before the end of the school year, ask two teachers for recommendations. But remember that writing letters of recommendation is not part of a teacher's normal job duties. So keep that in mind and approach your teachers with a polite considerate request. Here are some pointers:

                *             Ask in person. No emails. A personal request is most thoughtful

                *             Do not ask for more recommendations than you need. Pick two teachers and use the same two for all your applications. (Note: you will need to ask teachers who fulfill the guidelines of the colleges to which you are applying. Check the colleges' websites.)

                *             Say "please" when you ask and "thank you" when the teacher agrees.

Here's a sound bite: "I'm thinking ahead to college applications and wonder if you feel writing a recommendation is something you can do for me."

Most teachers are happy to help you.


Keith Todd, Admission Dean, Reed College, Answers 8 Questions

Founded in 1908, Reed College is a liberal arts college in Portland, Oregon, known for its rich intellectual life.  Dean of Admission Keith Todd joins us this month to answer not five -- but eight questions -- in the generous spirit of inquiry that exemplifies Reed College.

Located on 116 acres in a residential neighborhood, the Reed campus is just five miles from downtown Portland, and about 90 minutes from the Pacific coast.  Featuring a lake and Reed Canyon, a wooded wetland with abundant wildlife and native plants, the campus is home to 1400 students.

The quirky intellectualism Reed is known for is on full display even on their website, which reads like a series of droll literary vignettes -- with comic overtones. (Not to go too Reedie on you.) In fact, Reed has produced 31 Rhodes Scholars, as well as numerous winners of the Fulbright, Watson, and National Science Foundation fellowships. Classes average 15 students with a 10-to-1 student-faculty ratio. Reed offers 22 department-based majors (from Anthropology to Theater), 12 interdisciplinary majors (including History-literature or Mathematics-economics) and 6 dual degree programs (such as applied physics and electronic science).  And students can also work with their adviser to design alternate interdisciplinary majors.