The Admissions Game

Whew! The May 1 deadline has passed for seniors, and they have chosen where they want to enroll. Students also should have sent appropriate notes to those colleges that sent acceptance letters but were not the final choice.

For some students, the decision was easy, especially if they were admitted to their first-choice colleges. But it was not easy for all students; some had sleepless nights trying to decide.

Let’s take a few decisions that drove students and their parents into many discussions.

One of my students had to choose among Harvard, Princeton, Brown and the University of Georgia, among others. How did this student choose, without going into great detail?

Alice (not her real name) visited those colleges for the second time. Georgia offered a wonderful top honors program, and the cost to her family would be practically nothing. No tuition, room and board, and other expenses would be almost zero, a reward she earned with outstanding grades and test scores. Georgia was enticing.

But she talked to students at the other colleges, gathered intelligent questions, talked to recent graduates who now live in Georgia, and talked to professors. Then she made her choice: Princeton.

Lesson: Visit colleges, even twice if necessary. Gather information about people, academic life, campus life, the student body, financial aid and Jewish considerations. Each category has many factors to consider.

Examples under academic life include strength of primary major of interest, study abroad, class size, faculty advising system, distinctive programs, internships and accessibility of faculty. Jewish considerations may include the Jewish student population, Shabbat services, an active Hillel and/or Chabad, and a kosher dining program.

Another student had to choose between two out-of-state public colleges with no money from the college he wanted to attend. He didn’t meet the scholarship deadline, which was his fault. I suggested phone calls to his No. 1 college, but nothing happened. He enrolled at the other public university, which wasn’t a bad choice.

Well, the calls to the preferred university worked. All of a sudden, a scholarship was awarded. Now he will attend his No. 1 choice, and he is working on getting money back from the other college.

Lesson: Meet those deadlines! Talk to admissions and financial aid officials at the college when appropriate.

A third student had to choose between a top college that offered no money and another fine college that offered $32,000 in merit money per year. He chose the college where the family will have to pay the full bill. How could he make such a choice?

Lesson: He thoroughly investigated both colleges and visited again, and his family agreed to bite the bullet.

Seniors think they are finished with high school. Well, almost. For those who have senioritis, find a remedy quick.

Two quick stories.

After being accepted to Georgia Tech, a senior decided to enjoy the rest of the school year — so much that her grades went way down. Tech revoked her acceptance. Why? Tech received her final transcript, and it was quite different from her application transcript (in the wrong direction) because of the second semester.

Lesson: All your grades count, to the last day of classes.

In an article online, a student in Pennsylvania and her father were packing the car for the beginning of school. That day, the student received a letter revoking her acceptance, based on that final transcript.

Unfortunately, the high school must have sent the final transcript to the college late, and the final transcript was not to the college’s liking.

Lesson: Don’t only end the school year on a positive note, but also make sure that your high school sends your final transcript to your college as soon as it is available.

Some students are awaiting decisions because they are on a wait list. What should students do to improve their chances of acceptance to first-choice colleges that wait-listed them? Email me at drmarkfisher@yahoo.com, and I’ll email you an article with specifics. Let me know where you are trying to be accepted. There will be no fee for this request.

Mark Fisher is a college and career consultant at Fisher Educational Consultants and a consultant for the College Planning Institute.