Tag Archives: early decision

The Postman Cometh

16 Dec

I heard her running down the hall, her slippered feet slapping against the wooden floor.

“Is the postman here?” I inquired.  But I already knew the answer.

She nodded, her face tense, and we both race to get the mail.  Stuck amongst my copy of Poets & Writers, our local newspaper and junk mail was a priority mail envelope with Barnard College’s return address.  This was it.

She tore open the envelope, took out a black folder with the name of the college printed in large, white letters on the front.  With nervous fingers, she opened the folder and her eyes anxiously scanned the letter:

“Congratulations!  On behalf of the Committee on Admissions, I am pleased to inform you that you have been admitted to the Barnard College Class of 2016.”   

Screams.  Hugs.  Jumping up and down.  Phone calls to family.  Phone calls to friends who have walked alongside us through this long process.  Email to guidance counselor.  Texts to friends.  No dinner.  Takeout night.  Facebook.  Accepting everyone’s good wishes.  Savoring the moment.

From the start she was attracted to Barnard.  In the middle of the campus tour in August of 2010, she leaned over to me and whispered, “I like this school.”  From then on, every college we visited was compared against Barnard.  She likes the small liberal arts atmosphere of a women’s college with access to Columbia University’s classes, professors, and resources.  The curriculum allows her flexibility to explore different disciplines without having to take required core courses.  The New York City location allows for plenty of opportunities for internships and volunteering.  Columbia University’s Chinese language courses are known to be rigorous and thorough.  For her, it made complete sense to apply early decision.

In case anyone is wondering, I plan to continue with this blog in the new year and write about the rest of the journey from acceptance to matriculation from the point of view of a parent.  I remain fascinated by college admissions and all things higher education, so I hope that you will continue to walk alongside me on this journey.

Thanks, and have a merry Christmas, a happy holiday, and a joyful new year.

Waiting for the Postman

15 Dec

My daughter’s First Choice College has mailed out its acceptance and rejection letters so it all falls on the trusty United States Postal Service to deliver good or bad tidings to our house.  Any day now.  The College has been cagey about when it mailed out its notices, only saying that everyone will hear by the end of this week, which could mean Saturday.  Not for the first time I complain to anyone who will listen, “That’s so 20th century.  Why can’t they do it like everyone else, electronically?”  I suppose they are trying to help the Postal Service stay in business.

Since last Thursday December 8, several colleges have notified their early decision applicants, mostly through their websites.  Thursday was Cornell University and Columbia University; Friday was University of Pennsylvania, Dartmouth College and Washington University in St. Louis.  This week, more students found out their fates: Brown University, Duke University, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Vassar College, Georgetown University, Tufts University.  To those who got in, hearty congratulations, and to those who did not, please believe that you will end up where you are supposed to be.

It’s been fascinating to watch how news of acceptances trickle out, or rather, in this social media age, how with one tap of the “Return” button, information gets blasted out into cyberspace for all to see at once.  No more calling up your friends to tell them – that’s so 20th century.  My daughter keeps her Facebook page on while doing homework and refreshes it periodically.  Ever so often she yells out to me: “So-and-So got into Such-and-Such!”  Friends then post their congratulations on the admitted student’s page.  By contrast, the pages of the ones who did not get in are silent.

Meanwhile, we are keeping an eagle eye out for the postman this week.

The Talk

2 Dec

In less than two weeks, D-Day looms for seniors who have applied early decision.  On or about December 15, colleges will send out their acceptance letters to these early applicants who have been waiting anxiously to hear about their fate since November.  Will the email or letter read, “Congratulations and welcome to the Class of 2016,” or will it read, “We regret to inform you…” My hands have turned cold with dread and nervousness just thinking about it.

By this time, some seniors have already heard from colleges, especially if they applied to schools with rolling admissions.  A few weeks ago, my daughter told me that on her way to class, she saw a girl jumping up and down and shrieking in the hallway, “I’m going to college!”   Some talented athletes have also closed the deal on their recruitment: a top cross-country runner is going to Duke University, and a gifted tennis player is heading to Williams College.  As word spreads about who has gotten in and to where, my daughter admitted that she couldn’t help but feel pinpricks of envy, all of which only seems to add to the heightened frenzy and stress of the season.

So she waits with impatience and trepidation for December 15 to arrive, wanting it to come quickly and not wanting it to come quickly.  I talked to her about what may happen that day.

“If it doesn’t work out, you know, if you don’t get in…”

I broke off, searching for the right balance of optimism and realism.  Her eyes locked on mine as she waited for me to continue.  I tried again.

“We all think the college that you applied to is a good fit and we’re hopeful that you can get in.  But you never know these days.  You don’t know who else is applying and what they’re like.  If they receive too many applications from Chinese-American girls who have lived in Ireland, play the flute and want to study Chinese…” I paused.  This was not going the way I envisioned.  I didn’t want to make her sound like everyone else.

The word “rejection” sticks in my throat and I have a hard time spitting it out.  “If it doesn’t work out,” I said, my words rushing out, “then it was not the right college for you for reasons that we’re not going to know now.  We have to trust and have faith that in God’s providence, you will end up at the right college.”

She nodded.  “Yeah, I know.  I’ve thought about that too, about what it will feel like if I don’t get in.  I’ll probably be really disappointed and sad.”

“Yeah,” I agreed, “we’ll all feel disappointed.  But you’ll have to find a way to push through it and send out your other applications.”

She nodded again and huffed out a breath filled with longing, “I really hope I get in.”

Me too.

Alma Mater: Not Penn State

14 Nov

Ok, the title of this post is a cheap shot.  I admit it.  When I attended the University of Pennsylvania in the 1980’s, there was a popular T-shirt on campus that read: “Not Penn State.”  Apparently people often got my alma mater confused with Penn State, much to our annoyance.  Back then many Penn students like myself had an inferiority complex, having been shut out of the Ivy League Big Three (Harvard, Princeton, Yale).  So for people to think that we attended Penn State felt like they were pouring salt on wound.

Those days are long gone.  In fact, I probably can’t get admitted today.  As for that “Not Penn State” T-shirt, I didn’t see any on my recent visit to campus.  Judging from the early decision statistics, many students now make Penn their first choice and half the entering class is filled through early decision.  It’s no wonder our high school guidance department advises students to apply early if they want to go to Penn.  In 2011, the overall admission rate was 12% but 26% of early applicants were admitted.  (It will be interesting to see whether Harvard and Princeton’s re-institution of early action will siphon off candidates from Penn’s early decision pool).

Penn also likes to admit children and grandchildren of alumni.  Whether you believe legacy preference is fair or not, Penn wants to attract legacy students.  It created the Alumni Council on Admissions to help alumni families determine whether Penn is the right college, and to advise legacy applicants how best to present themselves.  In early decision, 38% to 42% of legacy applicants are admitted.  But the legacy advantage only seems to matter in early decision and is less of a factor in regular decision.  Penn is a popular choice at our high school and each year over two-dozen seniors apply.  Penn usually accepts about half a dozen students, almost all through early decision.

When we visited the campus, it was on a beautiful early spring day.  The lovely weather brought the students outside in full force and they thronged Locust Walk, the main pedestrian thoroughfare through Penn’s campus.  Tables were set up along the Walk and students were loudly hawking tickets to dances, shows, and other campus happenings.  The atmosphere felt festive.  Maybe it was the bright sunshine but the buildings seemed spiffier than I remembered.  The Wharton undergraduate business school is housed in a new building, Huntsman Hall, named after its benefactor, Jon M. Huntsman, father of the Republican presidential candidate and former ambassador to China, Jon M. Huntsman, Jr.  The building inside is gorgeous, with polished wood interiors and state-of-the-art teaching equipment.  Thanks to its many successful alumni, the Wharton School has always received out-sized alumni donations.

Penn has four undergraduate colleges – liberal arts, business, engineering and nursing – and is the second largest Ivy League university.  Total enrollment numbers around 9,700 undergraduates.  An interdisciplinary approach to academics is highly encouraged, reflecting founder Benjamin Franklin’s belief in an education that is strong in the professions and the liberal arts.  So regardless of which college students are enrolled in, they may take classes in any of the four schools.  There are more opportunities than in my day to pursue dual degrees such as international studies and business, management and technology, nursing and health care management, life sciences and management, computers and cognitive science.  Some unusual majors that I remember from thirty years ago, like history and sociology of science or biological basis of behavior, are still being offered.

As a heavily pre-professional university, many of my classmates went on to pursue graduate degrees in business, law, and medicine.  I suspect that this has not changed.  It is a university that has only gotten better with time.

Ten Tips on Preparing College Applications

10 Nov

As my daughter works on her college applications this fall, we have already learned some important lessons.  Here’s hoping that some of these tips below will help other college applicants with their applications.

  1. Do not wait until the last minute to submit applications because as this October snowstorm has taught us, something may go wrong.  Give yourself some extra time.
  2. Start working on essays the summer before senior year, as soon as the Common Application becomes available, usually August 1.  Do not wait until the last minute (see #1 above).
  3. Make a list of each college with all the essays and supplements for each.  Sometimes the essays may overlap and you can revise one essay and use it for another college.  Be sure you are sending the right essays to the right schools (see #7 and #8 below).
  4. Create a file folder for each college that you will be applying to.  Each folder can have a cover sheet with all the information for that college, including deadlines, emails, phone numbers, codes, contacts, scores sent, transcript sent etc.  Brochures, copies of correspondences and filed applications should be put into the pertinent folder.
  5. When working on the computer, be sure to back up your work into a flash drive in case something happens to the computer.
  6. Print out and read your essays out loud to hear how it sounds.  Often times you can hear if a sentence or phrase is awkwardly worded.
  7. Print out a copy of the entire application and have someone proofread everything.
  8. Have another person proofread everything.
  9. If you submit an early decision or early action application, keep working on your regular decision applications so if in the unfortunate event that you are denied admission, the other applications are ready to go.  Do not wait until the last minute (see #1 above).
  10. Have faith that you will end up at the right college for you.

October Storm

7 Nov

The sound of buzzing chainsaws could be heard throughout our neighborhood this weekend.  The clean up after the freaky pre-Halloween storm has begun.  We lost power early Saturday afternoon as large, wet flakes descended from the skies and landed on trees that had yet to shed their leaves.  Unable to bear the additional weight, tree limbs and branches cracked, snapped and thudded to the ground.  This was repeated throughout the storm, a strangely jarring sound – snap, crack, thud.  I involuntarily winced each time I heard it.  Our backyard was littered with fallen limbs and leaves, some branches as thick as a grown man’s arm or thigh.

With the electricity out, there was no heat and the temperature in the house dipped below 50 degrees Fahrenheit or 10 degrees Celsius.  Based on what we saw with Hurricane Irene, I knew that it could be days before power would be restored.  Schools were closed Monday so my daughter and I packed up the laptop and college application materials and headed for the nearest open public library.  After navigating through road closures and detours, we got to the library and it was already swarming with folks seeking warmth and a place to charge cell phones.  We managed to find two empty seats next to each other and she began working on her college essays right away.

As if high school seniors needed more stress, this snowstorm occurred a few days before many early action and early decision applications were due.  The power outage set back my daughter’s plans to work on her essays that weekend, causing her much stress and anxiety.  With more than three million people affected by the storm, I wondered whether colleges were going to move the deadline.  Sure enough, when my daughter logged onto the Common Application website, there was this note:

“The Common Application Board of Directors has asked all member colleges with imminent deadlines to be sensitive to the adverse conditions affecting schools and students in the northeast.”

It was up to individual colleges to decide whether to extend deadlines.  Some colleges moved their deadlines by one day (Yale University) and some as long as two weeks (Loyola University Maryland and Drew University).

Although there is no competitive advantage to submitting an application well ahead of a deadline, there is something to be said about not waiting until the very last moment to submit.  All kinds of weird things can happen, like this bizarre snowstorm or technical difficulties.  Nobody needs that extra stress and agitation, certainly not parents (speaking for myself).

The next day, a kind friend offered to have our family stay at her place until our power was restored.  We took her up on her gracious offer and this gave my daughter the ability and fast Internet connection to continue working on her application.  There are few things more blessed in life than to have such good friends.  And electricity and heat.

The Johns Hopkins University – a trip report

11 Mar

That’s the official name of the university, with a “The” at the beginning of its name and an “s” in Johns.  The student admissions representative who presented the information session jokingly told the audience visiting on President’s Day that if applicants wrote “John Hopkins,” they will be rejected.  This elicited nervous laughter from the crowd of parents and prospective students.  Students and alumni refer to the university as Hopkins; my husband is a graduate and he can attest to the numerous ways people have butchered the school name.  It’s a pet peeve.

The University is best known for its world-class medical school and hospital, located in downtown Baltimore, Maryland.  We were visiting the Homewood campus in northern Baltimore, which houses the undergraduate colleges of arts and sciences and engineering.  Because of the reputation of the medical school, Hopkins attracts many pre-meds who make up 25% of the class.  Contrary to popular belief though, attending Hopkins as an undergraduate does not confer any special advantages when it comes to being admitted to the Johns Hopkins medical school.  Nevertheless, at least 85% of pre-meds are accepted into medical schools.  Our student representative was a case in point – she was a public health major going on to medical school.

Given Hopkins’ strong pre-med reputation, it surprised us to learn that one of the most popular undergraduate majors is international studies.  For students wishing to pursue serious study in international studies, Hopkins offers a 5-year combined bachelor’s and master’s degree program in international studies where students spend one year in Washington D.C. at the School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), another Hopkins graduate school.

In addition to the engineering and arts and science school, the university also created a new undergraduate business school in 2007, located in the Inner Harbor area of Baltimore.  Students can also pursue a dual degree with Peabody Institute of Music. Except for biomedical engineering where applicants must be admitted specifically to that major, prospective students do not need to state a major on their application.  The biomedical engineering program is ranked number one in the country and is highly competitive.  A student can be admitted to Hopkins but not to the major.

There are about 5,000 undergraduates and the entering class has doubled in size since my husband attended thirty years ago.  The admission rate in 2010 was 21% but the admission rate for early decision stands higher at 39% in 2011.  The student representative said one-third of the class is filled through early decision but in 2011 that percentage rose to 42%.

The campus consists of a series of redbrick buildings in the Federal style of architecture, organized around various quadrangles with green open spaces.  We decided to skip the campus tour and wandered around on our own.  The area seems safe enough in broad daylight but there have been incidences over the years as the campus borders a poorer section of Baltimore.

American readers of this blog will not be too surprised by the high cost of tuition at Hopkins but international readers should take a breath.  It costs $40,680 for tuition for the 2010-2011 academic year and room and board will add another $12,510 for a total of $53,190.

My overall impression is that Hopkins may be a good fit for students who are interested in international studies, the sciences, engineering, and medical related fields.  Hopkins students work very hard, frequently taking more than the standard four courses per semester.  Their men’s and women’s lacrosse team competes in Division I and matches are popular on campus.

 

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