College Night Recap (Part-1)

I attended the Exploring College Options panel in Oakland tonight which was held jointly by Stanford, Harvard, Penn, Duke, and Georgetown. Lots of families in attendance so much so that there was an overflow room. After each of the schools gave their presentation, there was a broader Q&A session. Here are some tidbits of knowledge provided from the respective admissions officers starting with Stanford and Georgetown.

How can I best prepare my child who is currently a freshman to be competitive in applying for these universities?

Georgetown response:
  • Take the most competitive load of coursework that you can possibly handle. Push yourself and it will show through on the transcript.
  • Get compelling letters of recommendation especially from your teachers who know you best. You don’t want to have a letter written on your behalf that states you were the kid who sat in the front of the class and got an A. What we love to see are qualities that will transfer well to our incoming admit class, qualities that will enrich the experience of your peers at Georgetown. For example, perhaps your teacher can speak to the fact that you really pushed your peers to work harder or think for themselves or that you were a natural leader.
  • Show your passion for something. It can sometimes be asking a lot of an 18-year-old particularly those applicants who only show a passion for their grades, but this is what means something to us and can separate you from others. If you have a real passion for something that isn't contrived - something that only you believe colleges will care about, it will jump off the page and resonate.
Stanford response:
  • We already know that 80% of our applicants can handle the academic rigors of Stanford. What we're looking for is something different. We're looking for commitment. And it often shows in extra-curricular activities. Why have you engaged in the extra-curricular activities that you did? How long was your commitment to them? Did you make an impact in the community?
  • In your essays, spend just one line explaining what the activity was. But spend the rest of the page explaining how it was significant for you, and how it may have changed your trajectory for high school or college. Because of that kind of passion and growth will most likely lead you to engage others in the classroom or the campus community.
How much will SATs and APs factor in?

Stanford response:
  • Test scores are part of a holistic academic profile. It’s one component beyond your transcript and a measurement tool. But one bad AP score or lower SAT score will not eliminate you from the applicant pool. We look at it as a 1-day performance but how you did in the class is also something we look at.
Georgetown response:
  • Grades will really reflect your academic tenacity. Test scores are just one piece. The strength of your recommendations will tell us whether you're the type of student who will stay up until 2 am to finish your reading or whether you’ll close your book and go to bed at 10.

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