BCF Readers’ Forum XVII

Dear Peter,
Unfortunately, my son was deferred Early Action at his first choice school. Other than good senior year grades, do you have any suggestions for increasing his chances for Regular acceptance? Should he be contacting the admissions officer and following up periodically? Or, would that be perceived as an annoyance?

Dear Barb,
At this point, the best things to do are stay focused in the classroom and provide brief updates regarding relevant achievements to the regional recruiter. You’re right that he doesn’t want to become an annoyance, so he needs to be measured in his outreach.

Your son might also consider a campus visit between now and the end of February during which he would stay overnight and go to classes. The admission office might be able to set it up for him—and while there, he should drop by to say “hello” to the regional rep (if available). Otherwise, patience is the best course of action.

Dear Peter,
As a college counselor, I have an outstanding student this year who was deferred at an Ivy League school in the Early Action round. She is truly outstanding, and would do very well at this college, but I am wondering if the fact that our school is a tiny, nonprofit Montessori school may be why she was not admitted?

Our school has adopted an “Early College” model. I am wondering if these highly selective colleges view that as inferior in any way, as our students take most of their courses at the community college. I attended a conference workshop where it was implied that APs or IB are the only curricula that are considered rigorous by these colleges, and that CC courses are viewed unfavorably.

At this point, I am considering calling the admission office at this college to gain some insight on which part of her application they considered weak so she can address it in the update she is planning to send in February.

Dear Thomas,
In order to understand the admission decision, you need to remember that colleges offering Early Action are typically admitting only the students they KNOW they would admit in the Regular Decision round. Had the college in question known with absolute certainty that it would have admitted your student in its Regular Admission (when fewer than 5% are admitted), it would have taken her EA.

It is hard to know whether questions about your student’s strength of curriculum could have come into to play. The AP and IB curricula are indeed highly regarded for their rigor. Whereas, admission officers will immediately recognize the standardized curricula (IB, AP) in which the student has performed, there is much more variability of rigor in community college courses. As a result, admission officers will not have the same benchmarking opportunity with students who have taken CC courses making it more incumbent on the student to present superior (and intriguing) credentials otherwise.

Contacting the college’s admission office directly might be helpful although you are likely to hear that the decision is a “reflection of the nature of the competition.”

Dear Peter,
My son was deferred Early Decision at his first choice school. In the meantime he received two acceptances; one has already provided the aid/scholarship amount. Each letter indicates a deposit is required, but also that it doesn’t have to be made until May 1st. I know my son will be making his decision long before then, but are there any issues with waiting to hear from the other colleges before sending a deposit? We’ve received a few follow-up emails from the schools that admitted him indicating they’d like the deposit as soon as possible. I don’t want to negatively affect anything, but I just wanted to be sure.

Dear Sue,
Sorry to hear about your son’s deferral, but it sounds like he is being courted by a few other places. Good for him! Unless an acceptance has come through an Early Decision process, he is not obligated to submit an enrollment deposit until May 1. Frankly, there is no need to rush. He will not lose his offers of admission. Some schools might push the ethical bounds by indicating he needs to enroll by an earlier date in order to secure a scholarship or special housing—hopefully that is not the case, though. The National Association of College Admission Counseling admonishes colleges not to engage in that type of behavior! With acceptances in hand, though, he can make his enrollment decision whenever he is ready.

Dear Peter,
My son is in the process of applying to several highly selective universities. Although he does not want to major in music, he is interested in continuing to participate in marching band and other ensembles in college. He is one of the top musicians in his school, currently serving as drum major and participating in regional honors bands since his Freshman year. Would it be to his advantage to reach out to the music department indicating he is applying to the university and is extremely excited to hopefully join the music programs available? Does that kind of request ever filter back to admissions?

Dear Melanie,
Your son should absolutely reach out to the music directors at the colleges that interest him. If they offer auditions, it cannot hurt to give it a try. (He might do this even though he is not interested in pursing music academically.) If they don’t, he should consider recording a selection of personal performances for the directors to hear. Much like athletic coaches who are eager to attract top talent onto their rosters, music directors want to assemble the best talent possible for their ensembles! And, yes, if they like what they hear, they could well become advocates for your son in the admission process.

Encourage your son to reach out to the music directors sooner than later.  He’ll never know whether his talent might have been a leveraging point in the admission process unless he tries. Good luck!

Dear Peter,
Thank you so much for coming to our school! I’ve been following your advice and replying to every email I get from colleges that interest me. Is it okay for me to set up a standard reply email for them, or should I write each one by hand?

Dear Nikhil,
In replying to colleges—especially those that you like—I suggest a customized response for each. They are looking for evidence that you are attempting to make a personal connection with them. A standard reply will not convey that impression.

Dear Peter,
Since my son was deferred Early Action, he received some additional honors and was chosen for significant roles in the theatre program. Is this information that he should pass along to the admission office at the EA school. If so, how and when should he do it?

Dear Jill,
While staying in touch and developing relationships with colleges is important, your son should do so in a thoughtful, sincere manner as it is important that the recipient regards the information as interesting and insightful. Students need to be careful not to come across as calculating the timing and/or content of messaging simply for effect. Admission officers are busy right now and they will regard as frivolous any interruptions that are not substantive in nature.

Dear Peter,
We have started visiting schools. My daughter, a Junior, is interested in a Physical Therapy program. When should we start applying to colleges? Is it too soon?

Dear Enrico,
The application process typically starts early in the senior year of high school. Each college will provide an outline of its deadlines so you might check with the admission pages of their respective websites.

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