Book Review: Winning the Heart of the College Admissions Dean
From time-to-time, as we receive career-related and job-hunting books and other resources from publishers, the staff of Quintessential Careers will review them to help you make better decisions about the best books to use in your career and job search.
Winning the Heart of the College Admissions Dean: An Expert’s Advice for Getting into College, by Joyce Slayton Mitchell, 208 pages. Ten Speed Press: ISBN: 0974098604, $17.95.
Reviewed by Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D.
As an academic — and self-admitted educational junkie — I enjoy learning more and more about the inner workings of academia, especially as it relates to helping visitors to Quintessential Careers when it comes to college choice and college admissions. Interestingly, the more I read, the more I am convinced, that like job-hunting, getting into the college of your choice is more about having a solid product — you — and marketing that product so that you appear better, different, unique among other applicants.
Joyce Slayton Mitchell, author of Winning the Heart, is well-versed in the art of choosing and applying to colleges, having been a college adviser at several high schools and preparatory schools in the Northeast for more than 35 years. And in this book, she tells both students and their families — in very easy to understand language — the keys to college admission success, a process she refers to as winning the heart of the college admissions dean (or in reality, the college representative for your region).
The bottom-line for all students and families to remember, according to Mitchell, is that the student MUST have the credentials — the numbers. She says having the correct test scores for the colleges of your choice does not guarantee acceptance, but not having them almost guarantees your failure. If you do not have the credentials that the colleges you apply to require, no stunt or extra effort on your part will get you accepted. “The best strategies in the world won’t get you in if you don’t have the numbers,” Mitchell states. Students should consider schools where they have at least a 25 percent — and higher — chance of acceptance. So-called (pipe) dream schools should not even be considered.
Winning the Heart is also big on encouraging students to conduct a lot of research. Mitchell urges high school students to spend time researching all aspects of many different colleges. She likens the process to one an anthropologist undertakes when trying to learn about a new society. Research is the key to finding the best schools for you — and research is key in choosing the one school you will attend from those that accept you.
One of Mitchell’s best pieces of advice — and one I think many high school students need to hear — is that applicants should not pick a clear “number one” school too early in the process. She suggests narrowing the field to a manageable (and reasonable, given your credentials) number of final schools — roughly about eight colleges — and applying to all of them. But rather than having a favorite among the eight, she suggests that students continue to research and explore all eight — and wait for the final word of acceptance before choosing a favorite. “You will prioritize your college list only after you know the decisions the colleges have made about your applications.”
Another great piece of advice — especially for the majority of students who attend public schools — is the importance of building rapport with the high school guidance counselor. It is this person that colleges contact when they are seeking more information about the student, not the parents or teachers or others. Mitchell states: “You can’t afford not to know — or to be less than friendly to — that counselor.”
One final excellent piece of advice in Winning the Heart is the importance of authenticity in college applications. Mitchell states that in the application — and especially in the essays — college admissions administrators want to discover the person behind the numbers. It’s about how well you package your product — how well you describe who you are — that can seal an acceptance for you. But here is where your research can also help you — because it’s also about showcasing your knowledge of each college in your applications by telling how you fit in — and how you will make a difference at each college. It turns out, as job-seekers often do, college applicants often spend too much time stating how great it would be to get an education at such-and-such college, rather than stating how he or she will make an impact at the college.
Mitchell offers other great tips and advice — both to the applicants and to their families. Winning the Heart is a great book for all high school sophomores and juniors. The writing is straightforward and enjoyable, and the suggestions and strategies are logical and useful. Some suggestions, such as the importance of writing several drafts of your college essays, are obvious, but deserve repeating because the art of writing and editing is certainly not something that’s been perfected by many 17-year-olds.
With chapters on all the major components of applying to college, great tips, suggestions, and strategies, quotes from numerous college admissions officers, and with a collection of college-related print and online resources, this book is one that many college-bound teens should read.
Check out all our book reviews in Quintessential Reading: Career and Job Book Reviews.