BCF Readers’ Forum XIV

Dear Peter,
My son is waitlisted to the undergraduate engineering program at a very selective university for next fall. The school reports that approximately 2,200 students asked to remain active on its Wait List and only 4 from 2,200 were ultimately accepted to the freshman class. So, it would appear the chances of a waitlisted applicant getting admitted to the University are less than 0.2%? If this info is accurate, would these waitlist probabilities be similar at other colleges?
Paul

Dear Paul,
I must confess that I am generally very cynical about data self-reported by colleges. In particular, data derived from WL activity can be very “soft.” For example, colleges will only count as “admitted” from the WL those students who receive letters confirming the admission. The typical protocol for admitting students from the WL is for admission officers to contact them directly with a “verbal” offer. Letters of acceptance are only sent to the students who say “yes.” For example, it is not uncommon for admission officers to call 50-60 students—or more—before receiving 20 affirmative responses. The calls to students that failed to yield positive responses are not counted among the acceptances.

Moreover, admission data is often reported well before WL activity has been completed. While it is possible that the university in question only “accepted” four students from the WL by the time it reported its WL numbers, it is also possible that many more students were contacted and accepted after the report was submitted.

Having said that, the data/probabilities are likely to be similarly “soft” at other schools. I will say this, though, the WL is a dead-end for students who do not choose to remain active on it at a given school. On the other hand, those who remain active—visit the campus (again!), update their files with new information and make sure they are accessible (cell phones, emails, etc.)—have more reasonable chances of admission than they might have imagined.
Peter

Dear Peter,
I hear from many parents that our child needs to have volunteer hours included in with her college applications. Are these necessary and, if so, to what extent? Our daughter plays high school field hockey and occasionally volunteers at the field hockey clinics offered in our area. She hasn’t expressed any interest in volunteering in other areas and, with free time being so limited due to her field hockey club practices and clinics, I wonder if she NEEDS to be more diverse in her volunteer hours for her application. I was hoping you might be able to elaborate on this.
Hal

Dear Hal,
The best thing you can do is support your daughter’s development in those areas that are of interest to her. While volunteering/community service can certainly be a valued part of an applicant’s credentials, so can talent development and leadership. I would advise your daughter to continue investing in the things that give her joy in life. If volunteering becomes one of them, great. Regardless, it is most important that she continues to grow with her involvements.

I would like to add that you might stop listening to your friends on this topic! Unless they are or have been admission officers, they have no relevant expertise and know little more than you do at this point. The “noise” that envelops the college going-process can be maddening if you don’t find a way to block it out or at least process it with perspective. Enjoy your daughter’s teenage years with her—they’ll be gone before you know it! Help her to stay true to herself as she reaches into the uncertainty of the future. And help her find colleges that will value her for that person she is becoming.
Hal

Dear Peter,
Do you have a sample letter to send to a school where I have been accepted; however, I decided to go to another college? I would like to keep the door open for the future.
Melanie

Dear Melanie,
I don’t have such a letter but I suggest you keep the message simple. Something like, “Thank you so much for offering me admission! After much consideration, I have decided to attend (name of college). All the best!” Generally speaking, these letters are opened by support staff who then update student statuses is their systems. If you have developed a relationship of any sort with an admission recruiter, you might send a separate, more personal note to that person in which you explain your decision/plans.
Peter

Dear Peter,
My daughter is currently a junior and wants to increase her chances at her favorite schools. When you mention to be in contact with the school and email the admissions person assigned to our area, do you have any recommendations for what she should be inquiring about or what is a good example of showing strong interest without sounding desperate?
Marva

Dear Marva,
Contacts with colleges run both ways. Your daughter needs to be attentive and responsive to outreach from the colleges of interest to her. And when she has questions about the college or an aspect of its admission process for which there are no answers easily found in its literature or on its website, she needs to ask them of its regional recruiter. Quite often, such questions relate to course selections. They might also relate to other choices your daughter needs to make (which subject tests are required/preferred, who should I ask for a letter of recommendation, etc.). She needs to be careful, though, to make sure her queries are thoughtful. It would be a mistake to try sending messages on a regular (daily, weekly, etc.) basis as she would come to be regarded as pest.
Peter

Dear Peter,
Do alumni donations matter for legacies? I have heard for the most part they don’t unless they exceed the six-figure mark.
Rob

Dear Rob,
I’m afraid there is no way to predict the manner in which colleges factor alumni donations into the admission process. Schools admitting 30%+ of their applicants will certainly be impressed by substantial giving but are also inclined to admit legacies with the “long view” in mind. In other words, admitting your student makes you proud (as an alum) and, perhaps, more likely to write them into your estate planning. The most selective (and wealthy) institutions seem to be as impressed by status/stature as money. At those places, six digits doesn’t even scratch the surface. They’ll want to see evidence of philanthropic giving and the potential to put a name on a building.
Peter

Dear Peter,
What are your tips for college campus visits?
Nikhil

Dear Nikhil,
Most college visits will afford you the opportunity to take a tour and participate in a group information session. Some offer personal interviews as well. If a college ever gives you an opportunity to interview with a paid admission staff person, you should take advantage of it! It’s always good to have some exposure to a decision-maker.

For additional tips, visit www.BestCollegeFit.com/blog and click on the “Campus Visit” category where you will find several articles that will help you prepare for your campus visits.
Peter





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