Three Quick Questions with St. John's College

For Three Quick Questions, I send the same three questions to admissions representatives at colleges all over the country (the subject line of the e-mail is “Three quick questions”), and then I hope to hear back from them. When I do, I’ll post them on Apply with Sanity. It’s that simple.

(See all the past Three Quick Questions posts by clicking on the “Three Quick Questions” tag at the bottom of the post.

The three questions are meant to probe some of the things that make a school unique but that aren’t easily captured as a stat to go in a book or web search.

Today’s response is from Caroline Randall, Director of Admissions at St. John’s College.

What is a course, tradition, program or event that is unique to St. John’s College?

The entire St. John’s College curriculum is radically different. Imagine a college with no majors, no textbooks, and no lectures. All of our students study the same liberal arts degree, including math, science, history, humanities, economics, philosophy, literature, music, and more. Instead of using textbooks, we read classic books to study these subjects. The “teachers” are Einstein, Mozart, Austen, Tocqueville, Aristotle, Chaucer, etc. All classes are discussion based, with fewer than 20 students and a faculty member sitting around a table asking significant questions and challenging each other to think at a deeper level.

Naturally every college wants to recruit the perfect student--high grades, high test scores, involved in their community, leadership...everything. But what kinds of imperfect students tend to flourish at St. John’s?

Who’s perfect? At St. John’s we care about your passion for big ideas—even if you (and your ideas) aren’t perfect. Test scores don’t tell us much about your ideas, and that’s why we are test optional in our admission process. The most important part of the application is your essay about a great book. And that’s also why we deemphasize grades at St. John’s. Instead of getting a grade at the end of the semester, students meet with their professor in a “don rag” where they get real, personalized feedback from professors who truly know them.

When people come to visit St. John’s, what's a place off campus that you recommend they check out while they're there?

By having campuses in Santa Fe, NM and Annapolis, MD our students benefit from two of the best college towns in the nation. In Santa Fe, be sure to check out the immersive theater experience at Meow Wolf, spicy New Mexican food at The Shed, incredible art at the Georgia O’Keefe Museum, or the best hiking and skiing in the Rockies by walking straight off campus and onto the Atalaya Trail. In Annapolis, sail on the Chesapeake Bay, explore 300-year old cobblestone streets, feast on famous Maryland crabs, play croquet against the US Naval Academy, or jump on a short train ride to Washington, DC.

Thanks for reading! Is there a school you want to answer the three quick questions? Let me know which one, and I’ll make sure they get them from me. Please send this to someone who would like to read it, or share it on your social networks.

Apply with Sanity doesn’t have ads or annoying pop-ups. It doesn’t share user data, sell user data, or even track personal data. It doesn’t do anything to “monetize” you. You’re nothing but a reader to me, and that means everything to me.

Photo by Angela Elisabeth.

Three Quick Questions with Wabash College

For Three Quick Questions, I send the same three questions to admissions representatives at colleges all over the country (the subject line of the e-mail is “Three quick questions”), and then I hope to hear back from them. When I do, I’ll post them on Apply with Sanity. It’s that simple.

(See all the past Three Quick Questions posts by clicking on the “Three Quick Questions” tag at the bottom of the post.

The three questions are meant to probe some of the things that make a school unique but that aren’t easily captured as a stat to go in a book or web search.

Today’s response is from Caitlin Ebbinghaus, Senior Assistant Director of Admissions at Wabash College.

What is a course, tradition, program or event that is unique to Wabash College?

Wabash truly has so many unique traditions, programs, and courses, but if I had to select just a few I would say – our ‘Fatherhood’ course, PPE ( Philosophy, Politics, & Economics) major, and the exciting tradition of Chapel Sing during homecoming week where the freshmen sing the school song (2nd longest in the country) for nearly an hour straight, in front of the chapel to earn their Wabash ‘W.’

Naturally every college wants to recruit the perfect student--high grades, high test scores, involved in their community, leadership...everything. But what kinds of imperfect students tend to flourish at Wabash?

The imperfect student who flourishes as Wabash is the kid who is more of a B average, has a few Cs on his transcript, but comes to Wabash and is challenged, pushed to be great by his peers, professors, and coaches in a way he had never experienced, surrounded by students who are leaders and achievers, and rises to the occasion.

When people come to visit Wabash, what's a place off campus that you recommend they check out while they're there?

We recommend students and families enjoy a walking tour of downtown Crawfordsville to explore the 200+ businesses in walking distance of campus – including locally owned shops, eateries, and breweries. Also, if they love the outdoors, check out walking trails and the two state parks within a quick drive of campus.

Thanks for reading! Is there a school you want to answer the three quick questions? Let me know which one, and I’ll make sure they get them from me. Please send this to someone who would like to read it, or share it on your social networks.

Apply with Sanity doesn’t have ads or annoying pop-ups. It doesn’t share user data, sell user data, or even track personal data. It doesn’t do anything to “monetize” you. You’re nothing but a reader to me, and that means everything to me.

Photo by Angela Elisabeth.

Parents: please take this quick college admissions survey

Last month I put together a quick survey for high school students about college admissions. You can see a summary of the results here.

This month, I’d like to hear from the parents of high school students.

Please click here to take the survey. It should only take about five minutes, and it’s completely anonymous.

I’ll collect and summarize the results in November. It’s not scientific or super well-designed; I haven’t taken a statistics class is 25 years. But it gives me and my readers a sense of what’s important to parents right now.

Thanks! Please send this to someone who would like to take the survey, or share it on your social networks.

Apply with Sanity doesn’t have ads or annoying pop-ups. It doesn’t share user data, sell user data, or even track personal data. It doesn’t do anything to “monetize” you. You’re nothing but a reader to me, and that means everything to me.

Photo by Zoe Herring.

Apply with Sanity is a registered trademark of Apply with Sanity, LLC. All rights reserved.

Diana is pushing ahead for November deadlines

Diana is a little less frustrated than she was last month, but only a little. Despite that frustration, she’s still refined her college application list and is on track to apply for the early, priority deadline for the schools on her list. Read all about her September below.

Meet the Class gets updated each month from September to May. Each installment features an interview about both the facts and the feelings of where the student is in the process.

Interviews may be edited lightly for clarity and grammar. Names may be changed to protect privacy. 

Diana ATTENDS A Public HIGH SCHOOL IN Texas

First, do you have any college-related activity this month? Any campus tours or interviews? Are you applying early anywhere that has a November 1 deadline?

This month I’m going to try and visit Texas A&M. Next month I’m visiting Baylor and U.T. Austin. I started working on my essay. If I can get everything done before November 1st then I’ll apply to the big Texas schools.

What else is going on for you at school? Are you active in any sports, clubs, and/or student government? What about outside of school? What else takes up your time and energy?

I’m Still working at Ralph Lauren. I’m still in photo. NHS. Spanish NHS. I’m pretty busy all the time.

How are you feeling about college applications right now? Has your mood changed in the past month?

My mood has gone from confused to stressed because now I’m out of time. But it’s fine because I’m working on it.

What is the mood of the other seniors at your school right now? Is college stress a part of the atmosphere?

A lot of other seniors that I know aren’t stressed at all, because they’ve been accepted to the school they want to go to.

The FAFSA opened up for students to start applying for financial aid this week. How ready are you for the paperwork? Will you fill it out soon?

I’m not ready for FAFSA because I don’t have all the paperwork. Except my family is pressuring me to do it anyway, because schools need it for merit based scholarships. But I don’t see a point in doing it until I have everything and FAFSA can give me SOMETHING.

How much, including application fees and other costs, do you think college applications are going to cost you this year?

It’s going to cost a lot. I don’t really want to think about it.

Do you have a sense of what you'd like to major in?

I really want to major in psychology and then go to medical school to become a psychiatrist.

Last month you were pretty frustrated that you weren't getting much information or help at school for college admissions. Has that changed?

It has not changed. They haven’t done much else. We’re starting senior conferences, but I’m pretty sure that’s just about our schedule for next semester.

Let's look at your college list as it stood last month:

University of Oklahoma (top choice)

Baylor

University of Texas at Arlington

Do you have any changes to that? Have you found any more Texas public colleges you're interested in?

Oklahoma is still my current top choice, but I’m also interested in Texas Tech & Baylor more than I was last month. I’m going to try to apply to those three for sure before November 1st.

Thanks for reading! If you have college admissions questions for Diana, leave a comment or email me. You can find other Meet the Class responses here. Please send this to someone who would like to read it, or share it on your social networks.

Apply with Sanity doesn’t have ads or annoying pop-ups. It doesn’t share user data, sell user data, or even track personal data. It doesn’t do anything to “monetize” you. You’re nothing but a reader to me, and that means everything to me.

Photo by Angela Elisabeth.

Apply with Sanity is a registered trademark of Apply with Sanity, LLC. All rights reserved.

Katie is very (very, very) busy right now

I’m grateful that Katie was able to email me back this month, because she sounds really busy. She’s got a full schedule at school, a long college list with early audition deadlines, and a school play. Read all about her September below.

Meet the Class gets updated each month from September to May. Each installment features an interview about both the facts and the feelings of where the student is in the process.

Interviews may be edited lightly for clarity and grammar. Names may be changed to protect privacy. 

Katie ATTENDS A Private Christian HIGH SCHOOL IN Ohio

First, do you have any college-related activity this month? Any campus tours or interviews? Are you applying early anywhere that has a November 1 deadline?

I don't have anything official for colleges this month. I have one application due this month, the 15th for Wichita State. I also have prescreen due for Indiana University [a “prescreen” is a pre-recorded audition clip for acting programs]. My applications are due November 1 for Indiana University, Temple, Western Michigan, and University of Minnesota—Twin Cities. I am trying to get all of my applications done this month, and I am almost there.

What else is going on for you at school? Are you active in any sports, clubs, and/or student government?

I am in my school play right now. I am playing a supporting character as well as choreographing it, so that's my biggest school commitment right now. I am also in Model UN, and we have our first conference in December.

What else is going on for you outside of school? What else takes up your time and energy?

I honestly really don't have a life right now. I am taking more classes than I have since freshman year and almost all of them are college classes, so I am spending all my free time doing homework. I am spending a lot of time working on audition material for college auditions.

How are you feeling about college applications right now? Has your mood changed in the past month?

I am more concerned about college applications than I was last month. I was expecting to get more done than I did, so I am kind of playing catch up. I have quite a few prescreens due, which is really stressing me out. I am hoping to shoot them in the next few days, but I still don't know my material. I have recklessly submitted a few college applications, and that felt really great. I am looking forward to more gratification like that.

What is the mood of the other seniors at your school right now? Is college stress a part of the atmosphere?

I don't think anyone at my high school has even really thought about it. They all seem to be hoping that if they ignore it long enough, it will go away. I have one friend who has submitted their college applications, and I have helped another one a bit. But other than that, no one I know of has really thought about it or started the application process.

The FAFSA opened up for students to start applying for financial aid this week. How ready are you for the paperwork? Will you fill it out soon?

I have already started the paperwork for the FAFSA. I am hoping to get it done soon because the audition season is upon us, and I have so many other things to worry about. I think I am pretty prepared for the paperwork.

How much, including application fees and other costs, do you think college applications are going to cost you this year?

I know this year’s going to cost so much more than I would like it to. I am applying to so many schools, and I have extra fees for auditioning at most of my schools. I also have to travel to all of my auditions because all of the schools I am applying to are far from where I live. Then hopefully, if I have a choice of what school to go to, there will be college visits at the end of this process. My process is much more of a financial burden than the typical, but I am trying my best to keep costs down.

Let's look at your college list as it stood last month:

Penn State (top choice)

University of Hartford (top choice)

Ball State University

Central Washington University

Columbia College Chicago

Indiana University Bloomington

Minnesota State Mankato

Montclaire State

North Dakota State

Roosevelt University

University of Buffalo

Temple University

University of Central Missouri

University of Minnesota Duluth

University of Minnesota Twin Cities

University of Oklahoma

University of Rhode Island

University of South Dakota

University of the Arts

Western Michigan

Wichita State

Do you still plan on applying to all of those, or have you already dropped some off the list? Any to add to the list?

I very recently dropped the University of Buffalo. The audition dates didn't work for my schedule, and it wasn't a top school in my eyes. I am considering not applying to the University of Rhode Island, but I am still unsure about that. No other schools have been added; I can barely handle all the ones I have right now.


Thanks for reading! If you have college admissions questions for Katie, leave a comment or email me. You can find other Meet the Class responses here. Please send this to someone who would like to read it, or share it on your social networks.

Apply with Sanity doesn’t have ads or annoying pop-ups. It doesn’t share user data, sell user data, or even track personal data. It doesn’t do anything to “monetize” you. You’re nothing but a reader to me, and that means everything to me.

Photo by Angela Elisabeth.

Apply with Sanity is a registered trademark of Apply with Sanity, LLC. All rights reserved.

Writing about your unique circumstances

Two years ago I took a trip to visit College Possible in Minnesota, and one of their assignments still informs what I do and how I think.

College Possible asks all their students to write a "special circumstances essay," which is a short explanation of the challenges they face as high school students. For example, I read one student's essay about his family's immigration experience. His grandparents fled Vietnam during the war and settled in Thailand. But his parents ended up fleeing Thailand and coming to the United States. So national and cultural identity is a complicated thing for this Vietnamese-Thai-American teenager. Another student wrote about her father's suicide after losing his job and feeling shame for not supporting his family. Another wrote about the complexity of growing up biracial in suburban America. College Possible knows that these essays, or at least parts of them, might wind up being part of an application essay in the 12th grade. But they want the students to write the whole essay, in the 11th grade, even before any application asks about it. They want their students grounded in thinking about themselves, their challenges, and their successes. Everyone applying to college, or even thinking about college, can take this same step, because self knowledge is the best knowledge.

Even if you aren't part of a low-income family or a first generation college student, you've got your own special circumstances, and they're worth thinking about. Let's be clear here: the point isn't to write a "sob story" that makes people feel sorry for you and want to give you special treatment for your special circumstances. This isn't about victimhood; quite the opposite. The point is to acknowledge to yourself—and be able to explain to others—the challenges and frictions that make you who you are. It's about celebrating how far you've come and the skills you've acquired. When colleges ask about your special circumstances, and not all of them ask, it's not about feeling sorry. It's about understanding what kind of resilience you have and how you got it. Nobody makes it out of high school and into college without friction and resilience, so it's okay to think about your own. There are plenty of ways to think about your special challenges.

Physical. Do you have any physical disabilities, chronic conditions, or life-changing injuries that make your mobility different than most?

Mental. Do you have any learning disabilities that make traditional education less suited to you? Do you deal with depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, or any other mental health issues that make your day-to-day life more difficult?

Economic. Do you live near or below the poverty line? Has your family or community been through a major change in economic circumstances?

Legal. Are you and/or your parents undocumented immigrants? Do you have a criminal record that needs explaining? Is your family involved in litigation that affects your economic or emotional well-being?

Identity. Does your sexual, ethnic, racial, gender, religious, or cultural identity make you feel not-normal? Do you face discrimination because of your identity?

Academic. Did you have to take time off from school for any reason? Have you been to a large number of schools over the years? Did you attend an especially ineffective--or especially outstanding--school? Have you got large fluctuations in your academic record that need explaining?

Maybe you don't really think any of this applies. I hear that fairly often: "I'm just a happy white kid from a middle-class family." That's fine. Better than fine. If you've made it this far without having to overcome any major obstacles, feel grateful. You've got a lot of promise. But don't fall into the paradoxical trap of feeling like having no disadvantages is in itself a disadvantage. There's no evidence that colleges--even those looking to increase diversity--are going to hold it against you that you're a happy, well-adjusted, middle-class student

Thinking about special circumstances, one of the most common questions I get from students working on their college application essays is "Is it okay to write about...?"

Is it okay to write about my depression? Is it okay to write about coming out as queer? Is it okay to write about how I used to be a really bad student? Is it okay to write about being an abuse survivor? Is it okay to talk about being bullied? Is it okay to talk about the time I was a bully?

Yes, it is okay. Nobody is asking you to hide any part of yourself, to feel shame, or feel unworthy. In many cases, it would literally be illegal for an admissions officer to discriminate against you based simply on the topic your essay. They ask you to write essays to make sure your writing skills are sufficient, yes, but also to get to know you as a person.

That being said, it's important to think about why you would write about that. Whatever specific narrative or example you give, you want your essay to illustrate personal qualities or traits that aren't already demonstrated in your transcript and that show your readiness to do well in college. 

Battling depression, or being gay, or having suffered academic setbacks doesn't make you any less able to do well in college. But it doesn't necessarily make you any more able to do well in college, either. So decide what personal qualities this particular issue might highlight as evidence.

So, for example, your essay isn't about the incredible difficulty of coming out to your family, it's about how you've learned to have difficult or contentious conversations without falling apart. Coming out is the example you give, not the main idea.

For example, your essay isn't about your diagnosis as bipolar, it's about how self-knowledge has made you a stronger person and better thinker. Working through your bipolar diagnosis is your example, not the main idea.

The main idea is this: the difficult thing you want to talk about but aren't sure you should talk about? Go ahead and talk about it. But it's not your thesis, it's your concrete evidence.

I don't say that to diminish the importance of your identity or the reality of your struggle, just to make sure you keep your eye on the key parts of your essay. Always begin with asking yourself: what about me makes me likely to do well in college, and how do I best show that? 

Once you know it's perfectly fine to be yourself, however you define that, go back to focusing on how to write the best essay.

If you haven't yet decided that it's fine to be yourself, if you haven't yet got help or had a real discussion about something you need help with or need to discuss, there are people out there who care and who want to help. Please find them and take care of yourself. 

Thanks for reading! Please send this to someone who would like to read it, or share it on your social networks.

Apply with Sanity doesn’t have ads or annoying pop-ups. It doesn’t share user data, sell user data, or even track personal data. It doesn’t do anything to “monetize” you. You’re nothing but a reader to me, and that means everything to me.

Photo by Angela Elisabeth.

Apply with Sanity is a registered trademark of Apply with Sanity, LLC. All rights reserved.

Jenna has completed a lot

It’s been a busy month for Jenna, and she’s staying on top of things, from planning the school Homecoming to getting her first college acceptance! Read all about Jenna’s past month below.

Meet the Class gets updated each month from September to May. Each installment features an interview about both the facts and the feelings of where the student is in the process.

Interviews may be edited lightly for clarity and grammar. Names may be changed to protect privacy. 

Jenna ATTENDS A Public HIGH SCHOOL IN Michigan

First, do you have any college-related activity this month? Any campus tours or interviews? Are you applying early anywhere that has a November 1 deadline?

As of right now I don't have a ton of college related stuff going on. I am attending the college rep visits at my school which is helpful since I can ask questions on the spot and it’s during school hours. After school I'm a bit busy and haven't had a ton of time to plan interviews, go on tours etc. I have started applying though! As of right now I have only applied to Wayne State and Central Michigan University. I applied the 1st of October and got accepted into Wayne on the 4th so I'm very excited. I was planning on focusing on college and retaking the SATs after homecoming because doing both at once would stress me out completely. Although I do hope to make the November 1st deadlines and update my scores later and getting those out of the way first.

What else is going on for you at school? Are you active in any sports, clubs, and/or student government?

As for school I am very involved, I enjoy keeping myself busy which is exactly what the clubs do. I'm not athletic in any way, I tried out for volleyball when I was a Sophomore and didn't make the team. Seeing how my year played out, I'm glad I didn't make it as my time would've been spread pretty thin. Anyways, I am in Student Gov. and right now we're in the middle of planning our first district wide homecoming hence why I haven't had much time to figure out college things. I'm also in Key Club, NHS and a new program at our school called One More Meal. I also recently signed up to be a 5th grade camp counselor so fingers crossed I make it as they had a lot of candidates this year.

What else is going on for you outside of school? What else takes up your time and energy?

Outside of school is mainly just trying to finish whatever it is I need to do for the clubs, meetings, homework and the occasional volunteering opportunities. It doesn't sound like much but can take up a large chunk of my day so then after I finish all of that, if I have time I will relax or take a break at least to eat and have a moment to take care of myself which I think is super important.

How are you feeling about college applications right now? Has your mood changed in the past month?

Right now I am feeling a bit more confident in the college application process. A month ago I was very anxious about it all but now I have already finished my FAFSA forms and have already applied to a few colleges so I think right now I'm doing well.

What is the mood of the other seniors at your school right now? Is college stress a part of the atmosphere?

As for the mood of the other seniors in my class seems to be pretty calm. Their minds are kind of on Homecoming too so it’s not a first thought but I do think once this all done, it'll turn into somewhat a mad house trying to meet deadlines, writing essay and applying for scholarships.

The FAFSA opened up for students to start applying for financial aid this week. How ready are you for the paperwork? Will you fill it out soon?

I've actually already filled out FAFSA. I did it the day it came out and as soon as I got home. I just thought to get it out of the way asap and it wasn't as bad as I thought honestly. It took my mom and I about an hour to fill it all out.

How much, including application fees and other costs, do you think college applications are going to cost you this year?

Some colleges are saying to apply now like Wayne and Central and I don't have to pay a fee or possibly don't have to write an essay which for me is a win-win because writing essays isn't exactly my favorite thing to do but it’s necessary to the process.

And if a fee is required and essays are due, that's fine too and since I do come from a lower income household i'll try to look for a fee waiver form but if not that's okay too but I honestly can't give you a rough estimate because I genuinely don't know. Some obviously will cost more than others to apply and some I won't need to pay.

Do you have a sense of what you'd like to major in?

Right now I'm interested in Biomedical. It allows me to be in the medical field but also it's something that probably won't die out. I still have time and might change my mind because for a while I was thinking about nursing. It'll more than likely be somewhere in the medical field as i really do enjoy helping people in anyways I can. I think the aftermath is a rewarding feeling.

Last month you were curious about the Common Application and how it works. Have you got any help with that? Are you ready to start working on it?

I also still have not gotten anymore information or help with The Common Application. I'll probably just talk to seniors that already graduated and ask them if I need help or have any questions and then if not i'll go to my counselor. Also for me this is something I’ll start after homecoming because I like to take my time writing essays to make sure they're well organized, thoughtful and concise.

Let's look at your college list as it stood last month:

Stanford (top choice)

University of Michigan Ann Arbor

University of Michigan Dearborn

Henry Ford Community College

Michigan State

Central Michigan University

Madonna University

Do you have any changes to that?

I don't have any changes really to that list, I put all of those colleges on my FAFSA form and so we'll see soon what happens.

Thanks for reading! If you have college admissions questions for Jenna, leave a comment or email me. You can find Jenna’s past interviews and other Meet the Class responses here. Please send this to someone who would like to read it, or share it on your social networks.

Apply with Sanity doesn’t have ads or annoying pop-ups. It doesn’t share user data, sell user data, or even track personal data. It doesn’t do anything to “monetize” you. You’re nothing but a reader to me, and that means everything to me.

Photo by Angela Elisabeth.

Apply with Sanity is a registered trademark of Apply with Sanity, LLC. All rights reserved.

Survey Results

I put up an online survey for students about college admissions last month, and I’d like to report on the results. There’s nothing at all scientific about this survey: I only got 126 responses, and most of those were from a high school where I made a presentation…including time to take the survey. Percentages are rounded. I didn’t do any statistical analysis.

Still, I think the answers are quite illuminating, especially since the seniors who responded were a diverse crowd of college-bound, successful high school students.

The most significant overall theme I see is that local reigns supreme. Even for these students (at a college prep magnet school for gifted students) who have access to information and representatives from all over the nation, most of their attention is in state. Almost every school named was in Texas, a well-known “elite” university, or—in the case of Rice—both. Here at the details.

1. What grade are you in?

100% of the responses were from seniors.

2. On a scale of 1 to 10 (1 being "super confident and excited" and 10 being "ready to give up") how are you feeling about college admissions right now?

The average was 5.65, just slightly on the negative side. Only a single person answered “super confident and excited.” Four answered “ready to give up.”

3. If you were only going to apply to one college, and you had to choose right now, which one would it be?

I like this question because it forces you to think about your overall approach. If I’m only going to apply to one, do I go for it and apply to my dream school? Or do I play it safe and apply to one I’m confident I’ll get accepted to? The schools listed look much more like the students were thinking “go for it!” Whereas half of them would go on to say that University of Houston is their “safety,” only 21 mention it as the one place they’d apply. Overall, 27% chose some sort of “elite” school and 63% chose something in state. 2% named . aschool outside the United States.

4. True or false: you've talked to your family about money and affordability, and you have a good idea of what you can afford for college.

81% answered “true.” This makes me very happy, and is much higher than what I usually see when I ask this question (around half is typical).

19% answered “false.” There’s still time!

5. Please write the top three adjectives that describe the ideal college for you.

There were lots of answers, but the most popular by far were urban, diverse, small, affordable, supportive, and challenging.

6. What school is currently on the top of your list, what's usually called a "dream school"?

50 different schools were named, among the 122 people who responded. One just said “still deciding.” But some dream schools are more popular than others. Rice is the dream school for 23 of the responding seniors. 15 Said U.T. Austin. M.I.T. is the dream school for nine, and Stanford is for eight. University of Houston, University of Pennsylvania, and Northwestern each got five votes.

7. What school is currently on the bottom of your list? In other words, what is the school that you feel good enough to have on your list, but not higher than the bottom? This is often called a "safety school."

There’s a lot less variety when it comes to safeties. Only 25 different schools named. All of them are in Texas. The most popular “safety school” is the University of Houston, with 63—exactly half of the respondents. Texas A&M got 19 mentions, and U.T. Austin got eight.

It’s really interesting to me that University of Houston and U.T. Austin are both a “safety” and “dream” school. It stands as a great reminder that the ideal school is in the eye of the beholder.

8. When it comes to college applications, you feel most prepared for...

Putting together a good list of colleges to apply to. 43% felt good about this.

Getting teacher/counselor recommendations. 35% said this is their top strength.

Writing essays. 11% chose this as what they’re most prepared for.

Finding an affordable match. Only 8% feel most prepared for affordability.

Other. 2%. chose Other and gave some version of “none of the above.”

9. When it comes to college applications, you feel least prepared for...

Writing essays. 68% said this is their main weakness.

Finding an affordable match. 12% are worried about affordability above all else.

Getting teacher/counselor recommendations. 10% are struggling most with this.

Putting together a good list of schools to apply to. Only 6% said this is what they’re least prepared for.

Other. 4% said formatting their list of activities to put them in the best light, filling out paperwork, and keeping track of everything. One person answered “waiting.”

10. Where does your family want you to go to college?

21% essentially said their family wants them to go what the student feels is the best fit. That’s awesome. 5% said their family is focused on the most affordable choice. Most answered this question with a specific school name, and those were dominated by local schools or famous elite schools like Stanford, M.I.T., and Northwestern. One person simply answered “Ivy.”

Thanks for reading! Please send this to someone who would like to read it, or share it on your social networks. I’ll be conducting a parent survey next.

Apply with Sanity doesn’t have ads or annoying pop-ups. It doesn’t share user data, sell user data, or even track personal data. It doesn’t do anything to “monetize” you. You’re nothing but a reader to me, and that means everything to me.

Photo by Zoe Herring.

Apply with Sanity is a registered trademark of Apply with Sanity, LLC. All rights reserved.

Three Quick Questions with Denison University

Three Quick Questions with Denison University

For Three Quick Questions, I send the same three questions to admissions representatives at colleges all over the country (the subject line of the e-mail is “Three quick questions”), and then I hope to hear back from them. When I do, I’ll post them on Apply with Sanity. It’s that simple.

The three questions are meant to probe some of the things that make a school unique but that aren’t easily captured as a stat to go in a book or web search.

Today’s response is from Nick Radner, Admissions Counselor at Denison University.

Applying Early Decision

Applying Early Decision

As I’ve been talking to clients and other 12th-grade students lately, Early Decision keeps coming up. Whether or not to apply E.D. is a difficult choice for a lot of people. While I’m generally more “pro-E.D.” than a lot of other advisors, that enthusiasm is tempered with a number of reservations. So let’s go over some of the reasons to apply Early Decision, and also some of the reasons not to.

Introducing Three Quick Questions

Introducing Three Quick Questions

There’s a new feature coming to Apply with Sanity called Three Quick Questions. I send the same three questions to admissions representatives at colleges all over the country (the subject line of the e-mail is “Three quick questions”), and then I hope to hear back from them. When I do, I’ll post them on Apply with Sanity. It’s that simple.

I sent out a test batch of 10, just to see if I got any responses. One came back almost immediately, so I’m considering that an initial success. Let’s hope more come in soon.

The three questions are meant to probe some of the things that make a school unique and that aren’t easily captured as a stat to go in a book or web search.

Here’s the first response from Conner Green, Assistant Director of Admission at Ohio Wesleyan University.

What to think of college rankings

What to think of college rankings

Most college admissions counselors, at least publicly, will tell you that the rankings are worthless, that they’re one of the main villains ruining college, and that the world would be better off without the rankings. I don’t do this. Honestly, I’m glad that the rankings are out there. There are several things that rankings are good for.

Rethinking Legacy

Rethinking Legacy

I’m on the record as being fine with Legacy. I ran a blog post two years ago called “What’s wrong with Legacy admissions?” and I still stand by it. In fact, I’d like to reiterate why I’m not as bothered by Legacy as the New York Times editorial board. It’s not that I think it’s a perfect policy that needs to be defended at all costs; I’m just not nearly as bothered by it as the Times.

Please take a quick college admissions survey

Around this time last year, I gave a short survey to a group of high school seniors I was talking with. Their answers were insightful and helped our discussion.

This year, I’d like to open up the survey to all high school students.

Please click here to take the survey. It should only take about five minutes, and it’s completely anonymous.

I’ll add parent and educator surveys soon, but for now this one is only for high school students. I’ll share the responses in October.

Thanks! Please send this to someone who would like to take the survey, or share it on your social networks.

Apply with Sanity doesn’t have ads or annoying pop-ups. It doesn’t share user data, sell user data, or even track personal data. It doesn’t do anything to “monetize” you. You’re nothing but a reader to me, and that means everything to me.

Photo by Zoe Herring.

Apply with Sanity is a registered trademark of Apply with Sanity, LLC. All rights reserved.

To do better at school, think of studying like bathing

To do better at school, think of studying like bathing

High school students have to study. (I’m using “study” to mean all the academic work that has to be done outside of class: reading, homework, working on a project, preparing for a test…all the stuff.) There’s lots of advice out there about different techniques of studying. How to take notes. How to read quickly but effectively. How to review before a test. But I don’t like to recommend certain study techniques. Different techniques work for different people; what works great for me may be disastrous for you. It takes trial and error.

What I’m more concerned with are the routines and habits behind those techniques, the background. I’m much more interested in recommending the culture of studying. And the more I think about the culture of studying, the more I realize students should think about studying the same way they think about bathing.

Studying, it turns out, is a lot like showering.

What 9th graders need to do this fall

What 9th graders need to do this fall

This has an academic side—take the most rigorous classes you can, get the best grades you can, be involved in your education. But just as important at this point are the social and emotional sides. You’re easing your way into a new and exciting (and challenging) place. You’re going to have missteps, and you’re going to change your mind about things. That’s normal, and that’s fine.