Tagged: college admissions

How Can I Stand Out On An Ivy Application?

Cindy Greatrex
Cindy Greatrex, Associate Medical Officer

A friend of mine was in Admissions at Columbia for many years and had some good advice. So I assume you have the baseline excellent grades and test scores. But how to stand out? Look at what is missing at the school.

My friend said she read through thousands of applications every year where the applicant was a violinist. Problem? Orchestras need only so many violinists. What was desperately needed was a French horn player. Orchestral music scores almost always have the French horn. But she almost never received an application from a French horn player!

Sane is true for Fencing and Squash. Ivies tend to need more fencers and squash players than they have applications from.

Also look at niche majors. Cornell has a fantastic Forestry major but not a ton of Applicants.

Lastly look at what you can Create. Ivies look fondly on inventions, trademarks, patents, something that you felt passionate about and created. The Ivies get tons of Applications from people who worked with the homeless, or in a clinic, or in a food pantry, or off to Africa for the summer to assist in vaccination programs. All outstanding things, obviously.

But show Admissions what you Created, not just what you Joined.

Readers: this advice is solid and highlights one of the difficulties in gaining admission to selective colleges: qualified applicants are a dime a dozen but finding the few who have something unusual is difficult.  Fill a niche and you increase the chances of success.  Lets talk about your unique opportunities. stephanie@accessguidance.com or 610-212-6679.

It Takes 4 Minutes To Read Your College Application

From the Huffington Post

It Takes Four Minutes to Review What You’ve Done in Four Years

Sara Harberson 3/24/17

Four minutes. Four years. Oh, the irony and the sobering reality of modern day elite college admissions.

There used to be so much secrecy surrounding how admissions officers read college applications and how much time they spent on each application. Not anymore. The University of Pennsylvania Undergraduate Admissions Office recently revealed in an article for The Chronicle of Higher Education that it takes their staff a mere four minutes to read one application.

When I worked in that same office, it took me five or six times as long to initially read an application. That didn’t include the unaccounted time I spent re-reading, preparing, and meticulously going over each application for the selection committee. Back then, the reading and selection process moved swiftly. Fast forward to today, and Penn’s new reading and selection process moves at warp speed.

Penn officials say they needed to come up with a more sustainable model to handle the volume of applications they receive. Now, a team of two admissions officers reads a student’s application side-by-side. One person reviews the academic criteria (transcript, test scores, and recommendations), while the other person “reads” through the rest of the application (extracurricular involvement, essays, and interview report).

Within the four-minute period of time allotted, the two staff members make a recommendation on the admissions decision: ADMIT, WAITLIST/DEFER, DENY. And, then they move on to the next application.

Penn is not the only college doing this. Swarthmore, Emory, The California Institute of Technology, and Pomona College have all streamlined their reading and selection processes. I predict there will be more colleges to follow. This needs to be viewed as the new “normal” when applying to elite colleges.

How has it gotten to this point? The answer lies in the economics. All colleges want more applications and the lowest admit rate possible. But they do not want to enlist more admissions officers—that would be very expensive. So the only way a college can pull off reading tens of thousands of applications is to significantly reduce the amount of time they spend considering each student.

At least we know the truth. And knowledge is the ultimate power. Students should approach this process understanding that their very best self needs to be represented in the most succinct and powerful way in their application. Those four minutes should be the best four minutes of an admissions officers’ day.

Here are five ways to do that:

  1. Sync your objective measures to match the school you want to go to. Make sure your curriculum, grades, and test scores measure up with the profile of the admitted pool of students at the college. The objective pieces of the application need to be competitive for everything else in the application to matter.
  2. Strike gold with your recommendation letters. Every person writing a letter for you should know who you are, what you offer, and how the school community has been influenced by you. If the teacher or counselor writing for you sees you as a once-in-a-career student, the letter they write for you will reflect that.
  3. Optimize your extracurricular self. Find something so important to you and devote every chance you get to developing the idea, passion, or ability to its highest possible level. Significant impact on one extracurricular activity is much more powerful than a long list of “involvement” with little or no impact.
  4. Soul search for your college essay. This will lead you to choosing the best topic for your main college essay. If the things that you write down could be written by anyone, cross them off the list. Your essay should be one-of-a-kind.
  5. Crush the college supplement. The supplement for elite colleges usually separates the “competitive students” from the “admitted students.” The essays on the supplement should have the same high quality craftsmanship as everything else in the application.

Today’s admissions officers have extraordinarily less time to consider the nuances and details of a student’s college application. This new approach forces students to think more succinctly about who they are and how they want to present themselves in an application. The new mantra for the applying student needs to be seize the moment; that’s all the time you get.

Four minutes. Four years. Oh, the irony and the sobering reality of modern day elite college admissions.

There used to be so much secrecy surrounding how admissions officers read college applications and how much time they spent on each application. Not anymore. The University of Pennsylvania Undergraduate Admissions Office recently revealed in an article for The Chronicle of Higher Education that it takes their staff a mere four minutes to read one application.

When I worked in that same office, it took me five or six times as long to initially read an application. That didn’t include the unaccounted time I spent re-reading, preparing, and meticulously going over each application for the selection committee. Back then, the reading and selection process moved swiftly. Fast forward to today, and Penn’s new reading and selection process moves at warp speed.

Penn officials say they needed to come up with a more sustainable model to handle the volume of applications they receive. Now, a team of two admissions officers reads a student’s application side-by-side. One person reviews the academic criteria (transcript, test scores, and recommendations), while the other person “reads” through the rest of the application (extracurricular involvement, essays, and interview report).

Within the four-minute period of time allotted, the two staff members make a recommendation on the admissions decision: ADMIT, WAITLIST/DEFER, DENY. And, then they move on to the next application.

Penn is not the only college doing this. Swarthmore, Emory, The California Institute of Technology, and Pomona College have all streamlined their reading and selection processes. I predict there will be more colleges to follow. This needs to be viewed as the new “normal” when applying to elite colleges.

How has it gotten to this point? The answer lies in the economics. All colleges want more applications and the lowest admit rate possible. But they do not want to enlist more admissions officers—that would be very expensive. So the only way a college can pull off reading tens of thousands of applications is to significantly reduce the amount of time they spend considering each student.

At least we know the truth. And knowledge is the ultimate power. Students should approach this process understanding that their very best self needs to be represented in the most succinct and powerful way in their application. Those four minutes should be the best four minutes of an admissions officers’ day.

Here are five ways to do that:

  1. Sync your objective measures to match the school you want to go to. Make sure your curriculum, grades, and test scores measure up with the profile of the admitted pool of students at the college. The objective pieces of the application need to be competitive for everything else in the application to matter.
  2. Strike gold with your recommendation letters. Every person writing a letter for you should know who you are, what you offer, and how the school community has been influenced by you. If the teacher or counselor writing for you sees you as a once-in-a-career student, the letter they write for you will reflect that.
  3. Optimize your extracurricular self. Find something so important to you and devote every chance you get to developing the idea, passion, or ability to its highest possible level. Significant impact on one extracurricular activity is much more powerful than a long list of “involvement” with little or no impact.
  4. Soul search for your college essay. This will lead you to choosing the best topic for your main college essay. If the things that you write down could be written by anyone, cross them off the list. Your essay should be one-of-a-kind.
  5. Crush the college supplement. The supplement for elite colleges usually separates the “competitive students” from the “admitted students.” The essays on the supplement should have the same high quality craftsmanship as everything else in the application.

Today’s admissions officers have extraordinarily less time to consider the nuances and details of a student’s college application. This new approach forces students to think more succinctly about who they are and how they want to present themselves in an application. The new mantra for the applying student needs to be seize the moment; that’s all the time you get.

Increasingly, competition for college admission is making it difficult to predict where a student will gain the the coveted “Yes!”.    Every section of each application must be carefully curated with targeted information.  I’m here to help you develop the application that will stand out from the pack.  stephanie@accessguidance.com or 610-12-6679

Should You Get On The Wait List?

High Point U

Colleges, private, public, Tier One, regional standouts and small liberal arts institutions across the country report record numbers of applicants this year.   The number of seats and beds in the first year class of 2022 isn’t growing leading to more disappointed applicants.  Princeton accepted less than 3% of the regular decision pool for the class of 2022.

Now that all of the college notifications have been made, you may find that your favorite college has offered you the option of being on the wait list for an opening rather than a yes or a no.

Wait lists are a way for admissions offices to tell applicants who aren’t admitted that they were admissible but didn’t make the cut.  The wait list is also used to fill openings in the class after the admitted students have sent a deposit to the college they will attend.

Who is selected from the wait list for admission?  With deposits in, the admissions office can see the shape of the class: demographics, geography, majors, personal interests.  At most institutions the choice is made to bolster some aspect of the class: gender, major, home town or another criteria.

Is it worth your while to get on a wait list?   How happy are you with the colleges that admitted you?  Are you willing to wait until mid to late summer to know if you will get in?  Do you have a plan B if you aren’t admitted and have turned down your other choices?

The chance of being cleared from the wait list varies from school to school but is usually rather low.  If you accept the wait list, stay in touch with the admissions office, add new information to support your application; be certain to let the admissions office know how much you want to come.

Know that after May 15 a list is published of colleges that are still accepting applications.  You still have opportunities for going to a great college when you choose to apply to one of the hundreds still looking for students!

Hot off the press: Wait list information on 307 colleges  from Princeton Review https://princetonreview.blog/2018/04/02/wait-wait-dont-admit-me-or-will-i-ever-get-off-the-waiting-list/

Lets talk about your chances of being cleared from the wait list or for finding new choices where applications are still accepted.  stpehanie@accessguidance.com or 610-212-6679.

 

 

 

 

5 Reasons You May Be Denied Or Waitlisted

This season always brings disappointments along with good news.   Students feel rejection by colleges as a comment on their worthiness.  Know that a negative response has less to do with your personhood or qualifications than with two aspects of the admissions process that you have no control over.  Ignore the reflex to agonize “If only I had…..” and “I should have done….”.

The two aspects of admission that you can’t know and can’t influence are the agenda of the university in making admissions decisions and the dimensions of this particular applicant pool.

Here are 5 reasons you might not have been selected for the next first-year class.

1. Agenda    Colleges make decisions about the qualities and shape of a class they will choose well in advance of the August 1 opening of application season.  The agenda will be set by institutional priorities, available space, money, and factors not evident to the public.

2. Size and Shape of the Applicant Pool     Your credentials might be at the top of last year’s admitted students but if your competition has higher scores and GPA than you have, your profile may not be as desirable.  In years when the number of applicants from a region, state, type of high school, or demographic type increase, including legacies, the competition is stiffer.

3. The Likelihood That You Will Attend     Colleges tend to favor students who will come if admitted.  Perhaps you are a good candidate from 1500 miles away.  You may be seen as probably choosing a college closer to home.   Another reason for rejection or waitlist is that the college can’t offer you as much financial aid as you would need.   A third reason could be that from your profile it looks like they are  your “safety” choice.   You’ll never know and are better off depositing at a college that really wants you.

4. Available Seats In Your Major     Colleges will recruit students for a new major or one that is under-subscribed.  Other majors have a cap based on resource availability.  If you are applying to the flagship major, you will have more difficulty standing out in the crowd.  It may not be obvious which majors need students and which have too many applicants.

5. The Way Applications Are Read     Each college reads applications in its own way.  Large institutions may give the application one read, thumbs up or down.  Others have 2 people read and a third if the first two disagree.  Some read in the admissions office followed by someone in the department of the applicant’s major.  A few still read and make decisions by committee.  On average, admissions reps read 1000 applications each year.  If yours was number 65 for a weekend of application reading, the rep may have been too tired to appreciate your unique qualities.

My recommendation is to evaluate your acceptances and financial aid packages then choose the one that will be most helpful in reaching your goals.  Don’t beat yourself up, you did everything you could.  Let it go, move forward, relish your success. I’m certain that you will do very well at any college you choose.

If you need help comparing the terms of your financial aid awards, wading through the language that is different on each one, make an appointment!  610-212-6679, stephanie@accessguidance.com

 

 

Inside Your Admissions Portfolio

Ever wonder what a college admissions office puts in the folder with your name on it?

In order of importance,  first is your high school transcript.  This document shows the difficulty of the courses you’ve chosen.   This is the Number One predictor of success at any college.  So, if  like me, you didn’t take much math because you really have no number sense, are you penalized?  Not at all if you’ve chosen AP, IB or challenging courses in  other subjects.

Taking upper level course work hints at your attraction or aversion to taking risks.  Are you willing to risk a B or C because you want to learn about something?   Even stronger is the suggestion that you can be motivated by curiosity – a very good sign!

Second, is your reported test scores.  The numbers on the score sheet indicate that you can read proficiently enough (speed and comprehension) to evaluate the material and answer questions about it.  Your math score measures how much math you have taken and understood.  Reading on the SAT and the three other subject sections of the ACT present passages based on concepts from typical high school courses.  Your scores indicate your ability to think critically.   Not all students test well making scores an imperfect benchmark.  However, aggregated scores from a high school offer some indication of possible grade inflation when they don’t support applicants’ grades.

Third, is your application and the materials that support it.   Most valuable are your principle and supplementary essays from which the reader gleans insight into who you are other than a brilliant student.  Your choices on your activities list, a portfolio or additional materials show what you value and why.  Adding a resume provides additional space to highlight leadership and accomplishments.

Fourth, the admissions rep who conducts your interview will add notes.  Not all colleges offer interviews on campus but most will arrange for applicants to  meet with alumni who live near the student’s home.

Fifth, are recommendations from the guidance counselor and teachers.  The admissions officers read the recommendations carefully.   Your guidance counselor can use this space to explain that a difficult situation caused your grades to drop for a semester or that an injury kept you out of school for a month.  From the teacher recommendations, admissions readers are looking for specific qualities that will help you in college such as persistence, curiosity, creativity, and independence.

The last piece is the High School Profile.  Each school sends this document along with the transcript and recommendations.  The profile contains a description of the demographics of the school district, a list of AP courses offered, per cent of graduates continuing to 2- and 4-year colleges, and other information that gives the admissions office a picture of your school.

When all the pieces are in place, the admissions officer who evaluates your application gets to know  you and how you have used the opportunities afforded by your high school.  With this picture in mind, a decision is made welcoming you or sending regrets.

As you can see, each section of your application reveals new information.  Let me help you showcase your unique personality in a winning application. 610-212-6679 or stephnaie@accessguidance.com

 

Your First College Overnight

Sometime during your junior year of high school or in the early fall of senior year, reach out to the admission office of one or more of the colleges you are applying to.  Ask to be matched with a student with  whom you can spend a night.

Usually, the host will be a member of the admissions ambassadors, AKA, tour guides.  You will spend Friday evening meeting students and doing what your host typically does on Friday night minus the drinking.

Sleeping arrangements are typically space for your sleeping bag on the dorm room floor or on a bed if a room mate has gone home for the weekend.

You can extend and enhance your visit by getting permission to attend one or more classes on Friday.  If you have a major in mind, make an appointment to meet with one of the professors or the department chair.

Bonus Info: take time to have a chat with the department secretary.  She or he will be a valuable resource when you become a student.  Your interest and kindness will be remembered.

Make it a point to find out where students get their text books.  Some books will be available on Amazon or another web book seller.  You may be able to rent-pay a fee and return at the end of the course.  If you must buy books from the bookstore, check out prices so that you have a good idea of how much to budget.  Some majors require supplies beyond texts and you will want to also find out how much to budget for those.  The bookstore can give you those figures.

There are good places to learn what students on this campus care about.  Read the student newspaper and listen to the radio station if there is one.  Take a look at fliers on bulletin boards and beside professors doors.  Intentionally overhear conversations among students as they cross campus or eat dinner.

After your visit send than you emails to your admissions contact, host, professors and department secretary.  mention something specific that you learned from each one.  If you’ve kept a journal, mark the page as one to compare to other college notes before you make your final choice.

Lets talk about the many ways you can get to know the colleges on yourlist!stephanie@accessguidance.com or 610-212-6679

Deferred from EA or ED to Regular Decision? Here’s What To Do

Wishing and hoping encouraged to you to apply to your top colleges under the Early Decision or Early Action protocols.  6 weeks later you discover that your application has been held for regular decision review.  It’s a tough blow, having to wait another month or two without knowing.

Take stock of the acceptances you may already have.  Are these colleges strong enough contenders for you to be happy with the education and financial aid package?  If so then you only have to send a “No thank you letter” to the office that deferred you.

You may still have a preference for the deferring college.  The number of applications in the Regular Decision pool is larger than the Early groups so you will need to continue to communicate your strengths to the admissions office.

  1. Demonstrate your interest by communicating with the representative who reads the applications from your high school.  Remind him or her that you are still very interested in attending and why.  Don’t repeat what you said in the original application; add something new.
  2. If you have taken the SAT or ACT again, remind the rep to look at the new scores.  Make certain that they have been sent.
  3. Add to your application new awards, challenges overcome, achievements and distinctions.
  4. Visit or visit again.
  5. Consider an additional letter of recommendation from an outside source like a boss or supervisor of a community service initiative.  One could also come from a teacher or coach.  Earn brownie points by asking the college rep if she or he will accept a recommendation before you ask someone to write the letter.

Admission, denial and deferrals are based on the characteristics of the applicant pool and the shape of the class that the admission office is building.  These are qualities that you have no control over and  admission decisions aren’t a reflection of your eligibility.

You are in a great position: you can choose to reject the deferral and select a college that wants you right off the bat or you can play the waiting game and see all the colleges that choose you before you decide.  Either way, you will end up at a great college or university because all of the schools on your list are good choices.

If you need help showing love to the admissions offices that deferred you, lets talk.  We can find new information to send that will strengthen your application.  stephanie@accessguidance.com or 610-212-6679.

Graduate From College Debt and Regret Free

How to Graduate From College Debt-Free (and Regret-Free)

Tips from an author who’s been there, done that.  Money  Magazine 9/6/16

Heeding the classic advice to write what you know, Kristina Ellis wrote her first book, 2013’s Confessions of a Scholarship Winner, about how she raked in a reported $500,000 in scholarships to put herself through Vanderbilt University and then graduate school. In a just-released sequel, How to Graduate Debt Free, she shares her advice on borrowing (or better yet, not borrowing) to pay for college. MONEY asked Ellis about how students and parents can make the right decisions now—and maybe avoid some big regrets down the road.

rolled-money1362244_640

MONEY: Do you think parents often aren’t open enough with kids about what they can afford to contribute toward college?

Ellis: Yes, I do believe that. Many parents think they are protecting their kids’ dreams by not divulging their financial standings. But one of the biggest favors parents can do for their children is sitting down and having real conversations about money sooner, rather than later. My mother sat me down on the first day of my freshman year in high school and explained that I would be on my own financially when I graduated. While it was hard to hear, knowing my situation early allowed me to make a plan so that I could stand out when it came time to apply for college and scholarships. Having a plan and strategy allowed me to secure more than $500,000 in scholarships and grants, graduate from Vanderbilt University and receive a master’s degree from Belmont University, all debt-free.

  1. What do you say to a student who has his or her heart set on a particular college that is simply unaffordable?
  2. Many students think they can’t afford their dream school because “there just isn’t a scholarship out there for me.” But there are literally billions of dollars in scholarships given away each year to help students with college expenses—for all sorts of reasons beyond just academic achievement and sports. There are a bunch of niche scholarships for having the best zombie apocalypse escape plan and having the best duct tape prom dress for being tall, for being short, for being right- or left-handed, for having a certain last name. All types of students from all sorts of backgrounds have been highly successful in winning scholarships. Somebody is going to get them. It might as well be you!

But if your dream school isn’t financially realistic, even with scholarships, there are so many great colleges across the country that could also be an excellent fit at a more affordable price. While it can be hard to give up a dream to attend a particular school, being saddled with thousands of dollars in unnecessary student loan debt can be way harder. I’ve spoken to many college grads who felt heartbroken going into college on a full ride at a public university versus attending the private school they dreamed of. However, in the long run, many have deemed it the best decision of their life. They still got a great education, had an awesome college experience, and ultimately got their dream job—with zero debt.

  1. What do you think of taking time off between high school and college to earn money for college?
  2. Taking a year off to volunteer, travel, or intern in a career field can be a good option as long as you stay motivated to return to school. However, if the purpose of the year is to earn money for college, students need to bear in mind how it will affect their financial aid package. When they do attend college, if they plan to rely on need-based grants and work-study, the money they made during that year could count against them in future financial aid applications. The Student Income Protection Allowance currently stands at $6,400, meaning students can make up to that amount before it counts against them. Beyond that, though, they can decrease their financial aid eligibility by 50% of every dollar they earn.

Therefore, be wise about your decision by seeking to understand its long-term impact. You may find that applying for more scholarships, working during college, or completing a co-op is a more effective way to earn money for your college education.

  1. Would you urge students to work during college even if they don’t need the money?
  2. Yes, I would encourage students to work during college. Studies consistently show that students who work a modest 10 to 15 hours per week are more likely to succeed in college than those who don’t work at all. Not only can it put egap year,xtra money in their pockets during school, but it can also foster qualities that are known to produce success, such as a greater sense of responsibility, a better ability to organize themselves, and a stronger work ethic. Plus, those additional years of work experience are a prime way to build up their résumé in ways that will appeal to employers.

computer-internship-245714_640

  1. In your book you mention taking a risk after you graduated—turning down a well-paying corporate job to take your chances as a writer. Do you think many young people today are too risk-averse because of financial fears?
  2. I think we’re seeing a strong mix of both, primarily hinging on whether or not they have student loan debt. Walking away from college knowing you are about to owe $500 a month to a loan company before any other basic expense is factored is daunting and can strap a student into a more “safe” journey.

On the other hand, we’re seeing more entrepreneurialism, millennial travelers, blog writers, and social activists. Many young people are taking risks in their twenties, before marriage, mortgage, and major career commitments.

One of my greatest goals is to help students graduate as debt-free as possible so that they have the financial freedom to choose. Even without student loan debt, they still may select a safer route, but they’ll have options. There’s a beauty to starting your life and career based on what you feel is truly best for you long-term, versus the safest way to pay your loan-debt obligations.

  1. Is there anything you’d do differently if you were back in college today, knowing what you know now?
  2. Yes, absolutely. First, I would be way more intentional about networking within my broader school community. It’s easy to get caught up in classes and peer events, overlooking the incredible opportunity to build strong, long-term relationships with professors and alumni. People typically love to help college students, and if I could do it again, I’d be bolder in reaching out and maintaining a larger campus-affiliated community.

bridge-Cambridge

And second, I would have studied abroad. When I was in college, I got very focused on working and networking within the Nashville community. I traveled on the weekends singing with a band while also building a marketing business. After several semesters of putting it off, I finally said, “I’ll live abroad someday, once I’ve built a successful career.” Looking back, I really wish I had seized the opportunity then. While I’ve since traveled to several countries, I haven’t fully immersed myself in international culture and learning the way I believe I would have been able to in college.

 

College grads with extensive debt can’t buy cars or homes, perhaps aren’t able to rent an apartment.  Debt has an impact on the economy.  I can help you find great colleges that won’t put you in the poor house or living in your parents basement.  Financial planning should be part of any college planning.  stephanie@accessguidance.com or 610-212-6679.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Test Optional Variations

maybeMore and more colleges are offering applicants the option of applying without submitting test scores.  Each college has its own agenda and definition of “optional” .  The agenda can range from dropping the potentially lowest scoring admitted students when reporting the middle 50% of admits (which raises the score band and therefore selectivity and college rankings), to encouraging less prepared students to apply, to a genuine belief that scores don’t reflect college readiness.

Test Optional applications generally mean that the admissions office will look at GPA, rank, curriculum, recommendations and high school activities when making an admissions decision.  A few disregard scores if sent but most will consider them if they are part of the student’s package.

Many Test Optional colleges request the scores after a student has been admitted, either for statistical analysis or for placement in first year classes.  Not taking any admissions qualifying exam can be a handicap.

While not reporting test scores could lead to a “YES!” from the admissions office, it could also mean a “NO!” for merit aid.  Almost everywhere, merit aid decisions are based on a combination of GPA, scores and rank.  With no scores to boost a student into an automatic grant, non-submitting students don’t qualify regardless of their grades and the rigor of their high school courses.

If you are considering not sending ACT or SAT scores, ask questions of the admissions office.  Do you need scores to be eligible for “free” money?  Are there additional requirements of students not submitting scores? If you choose to submit, how are the scores used?  What will be substituted if no scores are sent? How will placement decisions be made?

The more you learn about the options at each college you plan to apply to, the better your decisions will be.

For explanations of admissions vocabulary and policies, make an appointment with Stephanie for a phone or in person talk to answer your questions.  610-212-6679 or stephanie@accessguidance.com.

 

Three Truths About Harvard

John Harvard
John Harvard

The most frequently asked question about higher education is “How can I get into Harvard/Yale/Princeton/Stanford?” Here are Three Truths about top universities that you should consider before setting your sights on one of the giants.

Truth#1 The professors upon whom the reputation of these institutions is built and continues to grow are known for developing new knowledge and wisdom rather than their classroom performance. Primarily, they teach graduate students and rarely interact with undergrads. Most teach because it is required of them to keep the funds for research and publication flowing. While some professors are born to share what they know in a classroom, many aren’t as good at teaching as your high school math teacher; others resent the time they are forced to spend away from their real passion.

Truth #2 Employers are interested in how you will serve the mission of the company and improve the bottom line. Candidates show that by the quality of their internships and the work they have produced for their internship hosts. Having a degree from a prestigious university may get you a first interview but the name of the granting institution alone isn’t going to get you beyond first base. After your first job, with very few exceptions, employers or hiring managers aren’t going to care where your degree comes from: they only want to see your accomplishments in previous positions.

Truth #3 If you really, really, really, want a degree from a top tier university, do your undergraduate work anywhere you can succeed, stretch yourself, acquire good training, find opportunities and create networks. Apply to Harvard, et al, for your terminal degree* where you will have access to fine minds and collaboration with renowned professors. Many of the graduate schools of the universities on your wish list don’t admit their own undergrads, preferring to bring in different perspectives among the graduate school students. A terminal degree from Harvard or Stanford is far more impressive and the effect lasts a whole lot longer than a BA or BS from either one.

*A terminal degree is the highest degree awarded in a field of study or practice.  JD in law; PsyD or PhD in psychology; PhD in biology; MD or DO in medicine, are examples.

Stanford
Stanford

Are you wondering which universities excel in teaching undergraduates in your field?  Text or call Stephanie 610-212-6679.

 

This article also appeared on LinkedIn Pulse 5/13/16