Top admissions officials from some of the best colleges and universities around the U.S. offer insight and advice to common college admission questions.
Compiled by Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D.
As college tuition costs rise, as more applicants compete for limited enrollment slots, and as technology continues its push into college admissions, the process for college-bound high school students and your families in finding, choosing, and applying to the colleges of your choice become more important and more complex.
The Entire Collection of College Admissions Panel Questions
- How much should costs (tuition, room and board, etc.) be a factor when students are choosing prospective colleges? Read the responses.
- How important are college visits anymore — especially since most schools now offer DVDs and virtual tours? Read the responses.
- What are your best tips for high school students in helping them identify the best college/universities for them? Read the responses.
- What are some of the most common questions you receive from applicants/parents — and what are your answers to them? Read the responses.
- What’s the best recent trend you have seen in the college admissions process? What’s the worst? Read the responses.
- Does your college/university have an early decision option for students who know your school is their top choice? If yes, what criteria do you look for in these students that is different than students who apply for regular admission. If no, why has your school chosen not to have such a program? What do you think are the most important factors that should go into a student’s decision to apply to a college for early decision? Read the responses.
- It seems like you cannot talk to one high school student who has not completed some amount of community service and the number of hours keep rising. How important is an applicant’s involvement in community service to your admission decision? How does it rate compared to involvement in student activities and organizations? What does community service say to you and your staff about an applicant? And with so many students now doing community service, does it given any applicant an edge? Read the responses.
- We talk a lot to high school students about finding a college/university that is the right “fit” for them in terms of academics, size, location, etc. As you look at applicants, do you and your staff also look at “fit” of applicants? If so, what kinds of things go into judging “fit” — and how can applicants better explain why they think they would be a perfect fit for your school? Read the responses.
- Does your school require or recommend an essay from applicants? If yes, can you describe some of the characteristics of the best essays you have read over the past few years? What’s your advice to an applicant who wants to make a personal statement with the essay? If no, why has your school decided not to use essays? Read the responses.
- Can a student with a mixed academic record (we’re talking A’s to F’s) in a tough curriculum (AP, IB, Honors) justify that record (due to illness, family issues, etc.)? What if balanced with high standardized test scores? In other words, can a student with such a mixed academic background find a path to admission to your college/university — and if so, generally how must it be accomplished? Read the responses.
- What are the critical activities that a high-school junior should be doing during the year to best maximize his or her college planning? Read the responses.
- Some experts say the college application process really begins in the ninth grade with the student’s academic rigor and grades from that first year of high-school forward. How do you look at grades? Do you look at all four years equally, or are the final two years more important? Can an applicant make a case for admission with a mixed bag of grades in academically challenging courses? Read the responses.
- How important is an on-campus visit and interview for a prospective student? Do you even conduct interviews? Can a marginally acceptable student with great sales skills and a passion for your college make a positive impact with a personal interview? For an extremely shy applicant, can an interview actually hurt his or her admissions standing? Read the responses.
- What is so important about an applicant’s outside activities and this notion of being “well-rounded”? And why is leadership in one of these outside activities — sports, clubs, student government, etc. — so important to the college admissions process? How do you view these things? Read the responses.
- Academics (grades, rigor, class rank), standardized test scores, application essay(s), recommendations, and outside activities seem to be the main criteria schools use to rank and decide on acceptances. Can you give any more insight into how your school views these components — as well as discuss any other components you use to judge applications? And trends? Read the responses.
- Are home-schooled students at a disadvantage when applying for admissions? How can these students best positions themselves as top candidates for admission? Read the responses.
- How heavily does your staff weigh the personal essay portion of the application? What are the best pieces of advice to students who want to make a statement with their personal essay(s)? Read the responses.
- What is your current view on the importance of standardized test scores in the admissions process? Do you think some form of standardized test will always be used in the admissions process? What are some alternatives? Can students overcome a “weak” score? Read the responses.
- What are some of the important trends that you see in admissions that would be important for prospective students to know and understand? Read the responses.
- There are always stories of great admissions supplements and stunts. Do you advise a marginal student who is making a reach to attend your college to send supplemental material or try other attention-grabbing stunts? Read the responses.
Finally, any other words of wisdom you can offer prospective students as they begin the college evaluation and application process would be greatly appreciated. Read the key tips.
Go back to the main page: Answers to Common College Admissions Questions.
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