Why Admissions Officers' Blogs Provide Some of the Most Helpful Insight into the College Application Process
There is no shortage of reading material about the US college-admissions process—and sometimes, this poses its own challenge. Whether you're wading through huge books about application strategies, articles about the latest college news, or comments on message forums claiming to have the exact formula for Harvard admission, it's easy to feel overwhelmed and, at times, to get misled by inaccurate information. In all this, blogs published by admissions offices are a breath of fresh air and useful knowledge.
Most of these blogs are run off of colleges' official websites, which means that some of their posts are geared towards answering specific questions about that college or university. (For example, see this post on the University of Southern California's blog about different ways that prospective students can learn about the campus without having to visit.) You should use this to your advantage and pay special attention to the blogs of colleges to which you will be applying. But take note: a lot of posts on admissions blogs will be more generally beneficial for students applying to any colleges. For example, on the same USC blog, check out this post that gives advice on how to give an effective admissions interview, and this post, from USC’s senior assistant director of undergraduate admissions, on Making the College Admission Process About You.
Here are some links to some good admissions blogs, with excerpts of posts that you may find especially useful:
1. Planning Your Profile. The University of Illinois keeps a blog with lots of short posts, many of which are also useful for students who are preparing to attend college and wondering what academic and social life will be like in a US university. There are also plenty of basic admissions posts as well, such as this one, which gives a four-year breakdown of what students should be doing in each year of high school, to maximize the competitiveness of their applications. Here’s a snippet from the list of what students should start thinking about in their sophomore year of high school:
“If you already participate in some extracurricular activities, try to become more involved with them. Look for ways to take on leadership roles. You should also begin looking for great opportunities like a part-time job or a summer internship to help you further explore your interests.”
2. Managing Social Media During Applications. On the USC blog, see this post that addresses an issue that is especially relevant today: how applicants should manage their social media profiles around the time of college admissions.
“Make. It. Private. Facebook allows you to “view profile as” so you can see what the public can see of your profile. Adjust those setting so it isn’t a lot. If you share things that you don’t want to be asked about in an admission interview, make it private. It is far more likely that I will see your tweets than whatever celebrity you’re tweeting at, so just lock it down.”
3. Choosing Senior-Year Courses. The Tufts Admissions blog is an especially good one, providing a lot of insight into how admissions officers think and evaluate applications. Juniors, don’t miss this post, which provides guidance on how to choose the right courses for your senior year in order to impress colleges:
“Now is the time to pull out all the stops and make the most of your abilities. If you’ve just had a solid three years, try to take it up a notch. We often see students who we wax and wane about but, if that file has a REALLY challenging senior year, it can be enough to make us pause and say, “Ok, the heat’s on. Let’s see how they’re doing at the midyear.” A very strong first semester performance can make you a real contender in this process.”
This post from the Tufts blog, which breaks down various successful supplemental essays and explains what was effective about them, is also a must-read, especially if you’re thinking of applying to Tufts. Even if you’re not, this post provides really useful insight into what makes an effective “Why X college?” essay.
4. Advice for Parents. Tulane’s admissions blog is also well done, and quite up to date in its postings. Like many other admissions blogs, it contains posts that are geared specifically towards parents. This post provides some useful advice that they’ve generally found a lot of parents can benefit from.
“More selective doesn't mean better. It just means more selective. This one's a great Deb Shaver quote. Rates of admission are not related to how "good" of a school it is or the experience your son or daughter will have there. Avoid looking at admission rates as a gauge of the school's strength.”
5. Anxiety Management and Perspective. Some of the most valuable insights provided on these blogs are not insider secrets about admissions, but a really valuable sense of perspective that it is often easy to lose sight of in the applications process. See this post, written on MIT’s admissions blog, by an MIT student reflecting on her high-school self, and providing advice to current applicants:
“On the blogs, we often talk about applying, and choosing, and submitting, and preparing. But if you’re a senior right now, that’s not what ought to matter. Do not apply to MIT because your life goal is to go to MIT. Apply because you enjoy something, even if that something is ephemeral and vague, and MIT is on a path to it. Not the only path. Not even the definitive path.”