Visiting colleges is really the most enjoyable part of the college application process. It's something that parents and children and even entire families can do together. Before you roll your eyes at me, it REALLY is possible to make college visits fun. Here are some tips to get the most out of college visits:
- Don't see too many colleges in one day. Seriously-more than two colleges in one day is too many colleges. After a couple of college tours and info sessions, they all seem to blend together.
- DO try to see different types of colleges on one trip. What I mean by that is if you are going to see a state university that has 30,000 students, go visit a smaller college with 5,000. Or if you are visiting a college in the middle of a big city, try to see another one that has a more suburban or rural camp
I am here to tell you that is not true! Did you know that 1 in 3 students in this country transfer? Now, that number is a bit inflated since it includes students transferring from community to four-year colleges, but it should give parents and students comfort that not everyone ends up in the right place the first time around.
What do you do if you decide the college you thought was the right choice turns out not to be? Well, for starters, don't panic! Transferring might seem complicated, but the process is pretty straight forward. But there are a couple of things you REALLY need to think about before you start the process:
Whenever I meet with a new family, one of the first questions they ask is: "What are colleges looking for?" The process seems so opaque that most people think that college admission is a crap shoot, a dark hole that applications are dropped into and whether someone gets accepted or not is completely arbitrary. The truth is a bit different and with a little information, it is possible to determine the most important factors in the college admissions process.
Did you know that:
- 77% of colleges polled state that grades are the number one criterion for admission
That's grades in ALL courses, not just AP and Honors
That is not to say that curriculum isn't important (we'll get to that in a minute), but it IS saying that colleges look at ALL the courses a student has on his or her transcript, so every grade that makes up the GPA matters.
The next most important factor:
- 54% of colleges still state that standardized test scores (SAT, ACT) are considerably important in admissions decisions
There was an article in the WSJ yesterday that was a little depressing. I am a numbers wonk, but these numbers left me gasping for air. Back in the "good old days" it seems that selective colleges like Bucknell, which gets more than 10,000 applications a year, used to take 12 to 15 minutes to review each application. 12 to 15 minutes! That is all! It appears that was actually too much time, given the volume of applications, and they now use a system called committee-based evaluation. Each application is divided between two admissions department staffers. One reads the essays, recommendations and extracurriculars while the other goes over the transcript and test scores. This process has shortened the time involved to 8 minutes per application. (Really, that is 16 "person minutes", so basically the same amount of time.) What does this mean for the student who spends hours poring over his or her application? I would argue it makes writing a concise, interesting and well-written essay all the more important. It also means that every part of the application the student has control over (basically everything the student writes) has to be carefully reviewed not just for errors and typos, but for clarity and impact. If someone is just going to spend eight minutes reviewing an application, it better be REALLY well written!