Every Successful Regular Admissions Strategy Has This, Part 2
I’m not sure this is a fitting statement, but it is how I feel: time is so unkind. In its unfeeling march, time has already shown us glimpses of the end of the admissions period for our students. All Early Decision and Early Action decisions will be announced in mid-December, along with the cries and cheers of all students involved. Some families will spend Christmas and New Year’s celebrating their acceptance notices, while others will have to watch over their college hopeful child fight a fierce battle with the computer late into the night during the holiday season. I sometimes think that students who have tasted rejection for Early Admissions fill out the Common Application with a heavier heart than those who only prepared for Regular Admissions. This is because they are surrounded by students who, on the other side of the fence, were accepted. It has become normal to post your decision on social media, and acceptances normally show up more on your feed. This is one of the reasons I ask the students I am responsible for not to post their results on social media. If you’re accepted, just patiently wait a month while your peers finish up their applications—it’s an act of thoughtfulness.
But I want to address the students who were rejected here. Don’t compare yourself with anyone else. Who was accepted and who was rejected is not important. Even if you were to compare your case with someone who was accepted, it won’t change the decision notice you received. You only hurt yourself doing this. What you should be focusing on is Regular Admissions for yourself.
There is one encouraging fact: if you were rejected for Early Admissions at a certain college, this does not mean you cannot be accepted somewhere better. This is not an empty promise of hope. When I look back at the 12 years of results I’ve personally witnessed, I have seen countless cases where the student took rejection in stride, turned a new leaf, and was accepted to somewhere far better than they originally planned. However, if you are impatiently waiting for your result mid-December and neglecting to prepare for Regular Admissions, the cost of rejection is too great. In this case, you are left with two punishing weeks to complete your entire application.
In this sixth installment, I want to discuss how a student’s psychological state can have a decisive influence on her college admissions journey. The introduction up to this point was long, but it illustrates the profound impact that psychology has on the college admissions process; it is an aspect we should never overlook.
As the title promised, I will give some practical advice. A college application can be divided into two parts: parts within your control, and parts out of your control. Parts out of your control include external factors such as your personal background (personal information, family situation, school information, etc.), test scores, and recommendations. These are fixed elements that you cannot change. On the other hand, sections about extracurricular activities, awards received, or longform essays are the most malleable, taking shape and form as you see fit. Many students and parents make the mistake of focusing solely on the written form of the essay. There are many aspects within your control in the application and making the best use of these elements gives an application depth and value. It is easy to lose sight of this. With the help of an English teacher, anyone can submit an essay with great sentences, perfect grammar, and well-designed structure. However, what we really need is an essay that integrates all the disparate elements of an application cohesively into a core message. By bringing everything together using a technique called positioning, an application achieves individuality with a clear direction and character.
Simply put, positioning is a method of showcasing a student’s character through the essay, but more importantly, of communicating directly and indirectly the values, personality, and authenticity of the student through the details of her extracurricular activities and the awards she has received. And if her recommendations corroborate her stories, this provides an extra layer of credibility. In a way, an application is like a painting. Just because a painting is a technically impressive feat on a large canvas does not mean it will earn respect and praise as art. When a student’s character and values are uniformly expressed and confirmed throughout her application, only then does her application achieve authenticity and depth. Positioning is the strategic planning and placement of which section to express which information about the student.
I’ll summarize the more nitty-gritty details of positioning. This is because it’s impossible to prescribe the same tactics to every student. If someone is selling a sure-fire, formulaic strategy that works for everyone, then they most definitely don’t understand you or your child’s situation. Again, every student is different. Even if two students attended the same high school, did the same activities, and got the same test scores, their characters and values are most certainly different. Embrace this difference and flaunt it.
For myself, 12 years have already passed during which I was unable to properly celebrate Christmas or New Year’s Day. I know better than most just how rough it is for students preparing for an application during the Holiday season. I can enjoy a beer after pulling an all-nighter finishing up some work, and I hope our students can enjoy their favorite, refreshing beverage while thinking about how to best finish up their applications. Even if the result is not what they expected or wanted, I hope they understand that this is not the end. If they continue to dream, their dreams will come to pass. Ironically, as a college admissions consultant, I hope that their dreams are much bigger than getting into a good college. And I truly believe that their dreams will come true.
2018 Mom & I 10/10 Vol. 12
Written By Jason Lee