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Monday, May 30, 2011

College Applications Lessons

I am still recovering from my daughter's college applications.

The competition was brutal this year for the top University of California campuses.

Some things I observed:

1. For UC's, 50% of the application seems to be soft, 50% hard.  The 50% hard is the GPA, SAT, etc.  The 50% soft is the extra curricular and essay.  Cal States just look at the hard stuff.  The analysis by schools of the soft part is very subjective.  I would start as a Freshman in High School Volunteering in an area.  Focus on an area that is meaningful and would appeal to a college admission person.

2. College Applications are like Resumes.  You think they are a work of art and should be carefully studied, and the person reviewing them gives them a few seconds and type casts.  Keep it simple and attempt to avoid type casting.

3. Pick the major, and then the school.  A big name University may have not even have the major your child is interested in.  Find the school that has that major.

4. When picking a major, involve your kids.  Its their life.  Some parents do this at a very early age.  I met one 7th grader and she already knew she was going to be a Veterinarian.  Sometimes this works, and sometimes when the child gets to college, they change majors.  One of the tour guides at UC Santa Barbara changed majors 6 times.

5. Figure out what the salary is of graduates for the major at the school your going to is.  As well as the drop out and graduation rates.  Sometimes you need to dig on the salaries.  If its not easily available, this also tells you something. 

6. Visit the campus as early as possible.  Look at the bulletin boards on campus, this is a great way to figure out the culture of the campus.  If its a wrong fit for your student culturally, don't have your child go.

7. Beware of college tour guides.  Their job is to sell you on how great the school is, and their talk, is often carefully scripted.  Even down to the part where they walk backwards and talk to you.  I recommend on going on a few college tours, you will then start to recognize a lot of the same buzz words and notice the same claims being made. 

8. Your child is a product, and you need to figure out how to make this product stand out from everyone else.  Beware of doing the same type of activities along with everyone els (marketing).

9. Colleges want you to apply to them!  The more applications they get, the better they look for their selectivity.  Some colleges don't even charge a fee for applying!  This way they get more students to apply.

10. Don't expect things to work out perfectly on applying to colleges. Expect victory, but plan for defeat.  Have a plan A, B, and C.

Yes, I have become a bit cynical on the college recruiting process.  I saw a lot of amazing classmates of my daughter get turned down by schools they should have gotten into, and others get in that were strange.  My take away is the admissions process is very subjective and there is a bit of luck involved.



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