(with thanks to Kim Brunstad, Yale Law)
Parents I work with would love nothing more than to help their kids get into top colleges, but they often feel helpless to do anything useful beyond helping their teens organize their time (read: nag; see CPE’s blog post, 3 Dont’s and Do’s for Parents in the College Admissions Game). So if you’re a parent of a 10th-12th grader and planning to spend some or all of your Spring Break visiting schools, here’s a great, practical tip you can use: Take great notes during the info sessions for your child’s later use during the application writing and interviewing process.
Your kid’s job at the info session is to sit in the front, smile a lot, show enthusiasm, and participate whenever possible—lots of admissions officers who run these things like to engage students and get a sense of who the real applicants in the audience are. It’s not a good idea for students’ heads to be buried in notebooks or iPads.
That’s where mom and/or dad can do them a great service. Virtually every college will ask, typically on their Supplement application or during an interview, WHY AN APPLICANT WANTS TO ATTEND THAT PARTICULAR COLLEGE. Generic and canned answers do not fly. “Because it’s got a great reputation.” Blech. “Because I love the city/town/village it’s in.” Double blech. “Because my girlfriend’s a freshman there.” Puhlease.
The more specific and focuseds an applicant’s response to this question is—the more it shows a clear direction and specific rationale for choosing the school—the more impressive and memorable the response. Admissions officers want to give coveted spots in the incoming class to students who will know what to do when they get there.
Now consider this: Info sessions are not simply an opportunity for students to ask questions, typically along the lines of “how can I get in?”; they are also, from the Admissions Office’s point of view, an opportunity for the college to sell itself to potential applicants. Info session leaders ALWAYS highlight the strengths of given department, the newest facilities, the plans for growth. That’s the gold parents need to note down for their kids to write or talk about later. If, for example, an info session speaker is bragging about the great new engineering internship program, and your kid has an interest in engineering, that would be a GREAT reason why she would want to attend school X in particular. Or a new hire in the World Literature Department. Or a new community service/outreach program. Taking notes on the SPECIFIC strengths of particular schools that the info session leaders are trumpeting can become prime material for the “Why do you want to go here?” question.
For more great tips like this, you may wish to attend Dr. Yo’s popular 90-min parent seminar, “Helping Parents Help their Kids WIN the College Admissions Game,” to be presented next in Glastonbury on 3/24, 3:00-4:30PM. Click here for details and registration.