BCF Readers’ Forum XII

Dear Peter,
I’m finishing my Junior year in the International Baccalaureate program and I am worried about the prestige of the IB program at my current school. How do colleges consider the IB in determining the reputation of the high school? Will they consider the performance of alumni from my school in the past to determine whether I am going to a good school?

Dear Ronnie,
You are very fortunate to be studying in an IB program. While I can’t speak for all universities, I can tell you that most regard the IB as one of the premier academic programs in the world. The philosophy and content of the program are universal, so every participating high school (and student) will be subject to the same curricular expectations. A high school can only offer IB instruction if it is approved by the IB Organization and its faculty have undergone significant training.

In determining the relative strength of a given program, colleges review profile data provided by the high school that reveals the percentage of the overall enrollment engaged in the program as full IB candidates, the percentage of graduates who have completed the IB Diploma requirements and the performances of graduates on IB exams. A school that features the IB program, but does not see many of its students complete the Diploma requirements or whose collective exam results are relatively modest, might not inspire the same confidence in a college as one that is consistently showing a high rate of Diploma completion with high exam results.

In the final analysis, though, it will be your performance in the IB that counts the most. If you embrace the full IB, perform at a high level in your daily work and project high exam results, you will put yourself on the competitive “playing fields” (for admission) at most selective institutions in the US.

Dear Peter,
During a college visit this weekend, my daughter met with a coach who asked her to fill out an information form that requested her social media accounts (Facebook, Instagram and, I think, Skype). There is nothing negative on the accounts, but she feels the request steps over the privacy bounds. If she doesn’t provide the information, could that reflect negatively on her as an applicant? They are not requesting passwords or access, just the account names and, of course, we instructed her to ensure that all privacy settings were at the maximum. Is this a common request in the application process?

Dear Sue,
The coach’s request for the social media info is fairly benign. In all likelihood, the coach is looking for the best opportunity to stay in touch—and this is not uncommon among recruiters. Under no circumstances, though, should your daughter share that information if she is at all uncomfortable doing so. Frankly, if her reluctance to share the information does adversely affect her status with the coach/school, it might be a good thing in the long run. After all, would she really want to be subject to an environment of caution and distrust as exhibited by the person(s) who would be leading her sport program? Something to think about.

Dear Peter,
What is going on with social media in the admission process? I just read where students have had their admission revoked at highly selective institutions—after they had enrolled—because of information they posted on social media sites.

Dear Charles,
This is a tricky situation. Anything that students (or any of us for that matter) post on social media is discoverable. While I am not aware that colleges actively investigate each applicant, they are clearly prepared to look into situations if provoked. I am not intimately familiar with the recent expulsions, but it is my impression that the students in question had posted insensitive, if not highly inflammatory, statements. Private colleges are within their rights to take disciplinary action if such activity is discovered that violates their codes of conduct.

My advice to students: Treat your social media accounts as though they are billboards on the interstate. Don’t post anything you don’t want the world to see. Moreover, be conscious of language, ideas or images that others might be using in conversation with you as they can be perceived of a reflection of you and your values.

Additional Note: Financial aid officers are able to access real estate profiles on Zillow as well as Facebook and LinkedIn accounts that might reveal pertinent home equity information and financial lifestyle choices that could have a bearing on the determination of a family’s ability to pay for college.

Dear Peter,
I need advice regarding the FAFSA and if one should, or should not, complete it. If we put our information into the FAFSA system, will colleges assume we are seeking financial aid even if we do not intend to pursue that option? Will it reflect more positively if we don’t complete the FAFSA? Or will schools understand our intent if we check the “do not need financial aid” option?

Dear Marge,
Completing the FAFSA will not lead to the conclusion by colleges that you are pursuing need-based financial aid. The FAFSA is a Federal document designed to determine your daughter’s eligibility to receive loans, grants and campus work opportunities funded and/or subsidized by the US government. It makes sense to complete the FAFSA if you want to explore these funding options.

While many colleges use the FAFSA to determine a student’s eligibility for institutional support, the more selective private colleges will also require submission of the College Scholarship Service Profile.

In any case, the point of discrimination in the selective admission process will come when an institution determines that you are not able to be fully self-funding in the process, at which time the question becomes: “If we extend institutional funding to this student, what is the likely return on our investment?” This question will become relevant regardless of whether the “financial aid box” is checked on the application for admission.

At schools where your daughter is likely to be on the margin of the competition, the demonstrated “need” of financial assistance could well compromise her chances of admission. Conversely, in admission competition where she is highly valued for what she has to offer, an institution will admit her and use its resources to leverage her enrollment. The solution: work with her to identify schools where she will be valued for what she has to offer!

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