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Top 10 College Admissions Secrets

August, 2011
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graduate-cap-1sTop U.S. college consultants, Dr. Michele Hernandez and Mimi Doe EdM, have worked with students from around the world for the past 10 years. From their work together and Dr. Hernandez’s work as an assistant director of Admissions at Dartmouth College they know the insider secrets about college admissions. Here are their top ten tips:

TEST SCORES     High Test scores alone (SAT/SUBJECT TESTS/ACT/AP/TOEFEL) do not guarantee admission to any school. Sure, high scores get applications read and essentially get a student in the door, but then to rise above the rest the critical components are grade point average and rank, love of learning, a specific academic focus, going above and beyond the regular work, and teacher recommendations. We create a testing plan for our clients early in their high school career and help them to take their scholarly interests up a notch so that they have opportunities at top tier schools.

HOOKS     Having a “hook” dramatically improves the odds of college admission. Typically 40% of the class at top tier schools such as Harvard, Princeton, and Yale has a hook. The major hooks are:
* Legacy (usually mom or dad, but sometimes grandparent; grad schools don’t always count) * Recruited athlete * Minority students (Black, Hispanic, Native American) * Development Case/VIP (New numbers with drop in endowment) 

PARENTS MATTER      It can actually be better to be from a non-college or low income background for college admissions purposes. Colleges now report the number of “first generation” college students, meaning neither of their parents attended college. 

PRIVATE VS PUBLIC      Going to a public high school can actually be better in the long run than going to a “fancy” private school in determining your college admissions odds. Colleges are trying to diversify. Dartmouth College, for instance, accepted 69% of their incoming freshmen from public high schools.

HIGH SCHOOL PROFILE      Every high school has an official college profile that students need to read and be familiar with as that’s what admissions officers use to translate the transcript. It’s a key, essentially, to unlock the school transcript and contains school demographics, grade weighting and class rank policy, grade distribution or percentile distribution, and often class offerings at the school and standardized test score averages from past years. Some profiles include college acceptance lists from past years as well.

INTERVIEWS      Not all colleges offer on-campus interviews, but if they do, we encourage our clients to have one. Interviews can make a student who is within range (has the scores and grades) a more dimensional candidate. Once a student applies to a college, he or she may be offered an alumni interview. This depends on many factors such as if there is an alumni living in your geographic area. 

INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS     Though colleges don’t like to admit to quotas, most set a limit on the number of international students, which makes it much harder to get into top US schools from abroad. Typically the number is 8-15% of the entire class, no more, so if a school says its admission rate is 20%, it’s more like 5% for international students. It is essential for international students to create a plan that includes high test scores, top GPA and extras, plus an academic focus.

MARKETING CONFUSION      Colleges can give false encouragement to students by buying their names and mailing addresses from the College Board who administrate the standardized tests. Students with scores in a certain range may be targeted by a college urging them to apply. This does not mean they are “invited” or have any kind of edge. In fact, it’s false hope for some and can cause confusion.     

APPLY EARLY     Early Decision (ED) increases odds more than Early Action (EA) and Rolling. In general, the rule is that odds go up the earlier a student applies. Note, however, that the pools are very different for ED and EA. Early Decision pools tend to be slight weaker than the overall pool whereas Early Action pools tend to be more competitive or at least the same as the regular pool. Therefore, ED gives the greatest edge in admissions, but remember it’s binding, meaning if you are accepted under the early decision agreement, you are committed to accepting the offer. In return, you have higher odds of admission. The most difficult colleges are the single choice early action colleges: Stanford, Yale, Harvard, and Princeton.    

APPLICATIONS MATTER      Bending the rules in the Common Application and writing a really good application can help students rise above the rest. The Common Application is very basic, but colleges want to know more about students than the form asks for. So feel free to attach additional essays, additional information, award lists, etc… under the section titled “additional information.” Do not feel limited by the constraints of the Common Application.        


By Dr. Michele Hernandez & Mimi Doe

college-experts-1sDr. Michele Hernandez and Mimi Doe cofounded Application Boot Camp® LLC after publishing their best-selling book, Don’t Worry: You’ll Get In in 2005. Application Boot Camp® LLC is devoted to empowering high school students from around the world in the college admissions process. Application Boot Camp® LLC has been featured in Business Week, The New York Times, Forbes, The Huffington Post, CBS News, Good Morning America, and other media. Students have the opportunity to work with Michele and Mimi and leverage their experiences to create applications that rise above the rest. For those students applying to college this year, Mimi and Michele have created a self-guided option based on their internationally acclaimed 4-day Application Boot Camp workshops.Website:www.ApplicationBootCamp.com

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