I’ve talked to two local high school PTOs this month about the “Am I Worthy?” mindset, treating admissions like a relationship, and the often-asked question “what do colleges want?” I needed to write out the full text of the speech for one group, so I thought I’d share it here.
Demonstrated interest is a term you'll hear often when people talk about college admissions. It means, well, exactly what it says: you've demonstrated that you're interested in a college you've applied to.
It seems like it should be obvious that you're interested if you've applied, but that's not necessarily the case. University admissions staff know that you may have applied because you really want to be there. They know that you may have applied because it's your safety school and not actually someplace you want to be if you can help it. They know that you may have applied because your boyfriend, girlfriend, or best friend applied, and you're actually kind of secretly hoping that you don't get in. They know that your family may have pressured you to apply. They know that you may actually have no idea why you applied--that happens all the time.
You finally heard back from the school you really want to attend, and they put you on the waitlist. First, let me acknowledge that getting waitlisted sucks. In some ways a straight-up No would feel better than a Maybe, because then you could just start accepting the No and move on. But a Maybe? It both gives you hope that there might be a Yes, but also makes you act as though it's a No. It stinks.
One of the main things that gets us into the "Am I Worthy?" mindset about college is that we don't really understand colleges--especially admissions. When we're high school students, living among a bunch of other high school students, it's easy to see how unique and different each high school student is. Lumping them all together is really quite silly.
Back in December I had a phone conversation with Christine Bowman, the Dean of Admission and Enrollment Services at Southwestern University. [See full disclosure below.] I originally reached out to her to ask about admissions essays and how they're analyzed, but over an hour we talked about a number of things. Here are the three main ideas that came up.
The best way to prepare for college is to be a good high school student, and there may be no more important semester of high school--as far as college planning is concerned--than this semester. When admissions counselors look at you transcript next fall, this semester is the most recent and full picture they have. While they'll look at all your grades and activities, the junior year is more important. It lets them see how you perform in more rigorous classes and more leadership roles than you're likely to have in the 9th and 10th grade.
Welcome to the new year and a semester!
If you're a senior, you've likely already sent off most or all of your applications. That means you probably have at least a little bit of anxiety about how things are going to turn out.
As a way to put that stress and anxiety into some greater context, please talk to your family about their fears and hopes about your academic future.
Whatever college you end up attending...won't ever stop asking you for money.
I mean, never. It won't always be a straight-up ask for money, it will often come couched in "alumni news" or "college updates," but there's always an "opportunity" to donate. And it never ends.
Why do they do this? Why does an institution that charges you thousands of dollars, sums so big you'll likely take out loans to pay for it, then ask you for more money once you've graduated (or even before you've graduated)?
I understand if you don't normally associate college applications with pleasure, but perhaps you should.
The first and most important step to treating the college search like a relationship is working on knowing yourself better. If you're going to really get what you want out of college, then you have to know what you want. And thinking about what brings you pleasure is one of the more fun ways to do that.