College Night Recap (Part-2)

More tidbits from Tuesday night's college fair. Part 1 focused more on Q&A from Stanford and Georgetown. Here are some random asides I picked up from listening to the other three schools in attendance.

  • Harvard
Q: What can my child to do stand out from amongst your applicant pool and improve his chances of being admitted?

A: Students we admit to Harvard we know can do the work and thrive in the academic setting. So in our decision-making process, we often look at the likelihood the student will pursue other interests they have on campus that will enrich not only their experience but the experience of other students at Harvard.

We don’t want students to come and study 20 hrs a day and never see the light of day. Getting involved with your classmates is a real experience. The library is closed on Fridays for a reason. Students will often spend 3 hours for every hour they spend in the class doing extra-curricular activities whether it be athletics or various clubs.

The fact of our admissions process is we have to end up not admitting so many excellent kids. I can remember one applicant who had upper 700 level test scores, she was in the upper 5% of her class, an All-American swimmer and she had a great interview. But she wasn't accepted through no fault of her own.

There are so many different things that will make a student stand out. Maybe it's your overall academic excellence or your research or your singing ability. Maybe it's your leadership ability. Perhaps you're not the elected leader but the backbone of the school and people notice it. Not everyone is a leader, but we admit many of them.


  • Penn
Make sure you take what’s challenging at your school. AP classes alone are not a counting stat for us, because some schools don’t offer them or don’t have as many of them.

We reach admissions decisions by consensus, there is not voting. Everyone around the table has to agree so there is no reconsideration of decisions.

  • Duke
We read every application twice. Perhaps the most important part of the application is your essay. This is really your chance to lend your voice in the process and tell us what you are passionate about.

There’s are far more applicants who didn’t get the perfect SAT or ACT score than those that did. There are also those who have had more bumps in the road than others. That is why we try to look at the whole applications to really understand what makes the student tick.

  • Financial Aid
The 5 private universities in attendance at Tuesday night's college night (Stanford, Duke Penn, Georgetown, and Harvard) made it clear through their presentations that they were among 20 private institutions that adhered to a need-blind admissions process. What this means is that admission officers do not look at an applicant's family income or financial aid need when making decisions for college admissions.

Much of the advice given by the admissions officers this evening revolved around the fact that the financial aid process, while complex and confusing at times is fluid and "a conversation". They definitely encouraged parents in the crowd to pick up the phone and call their offices. They also pointed out that unlike the admissions process where decisions are final, the financial aid appeals process exists to help families who feel their financial aid award doesn't accurately reflect your family's circumstances.

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