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Unlocking the Mystery of College Admissions for Parents

Unlocking the Mystery of College Admissions for Parents

By Stephen J. Pemberton, Senior Assistant Director of Admission at Boston College

March 09, 2009

Now the next step. For each school your child is thinking of applying to, find out which of these criteria are most important. There are several ways to gather this information:

  • Go to your guidance counselor. He/she has had a lot of experience with colleges and their admission offices.
  • Call the school itself and ask them.
  • Really read the information they send in the mail.
  • Go to their Web site.

For some colleges, all of the above criteria are equally important. For others, two or three may carry more weight on an application. Either way, it is your and your child’s responsibility to find out.

As a general guideline, large public schools usually look at grades and standardized tests.

Let’s take an example. The University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) tells you that they accept 50 percent of the people who apply on the basis of these two factors. Not only do they tell you that but they also give you a profile of the grade point average and standardized test scores … so before you even apply you know that what you’ve done In the Classroom is most important for at least half of the freshmen class at UCLA. By defining their own strengths, your son or daughter should get some sense of how competitive they might be for admission. Schools like this we call “formula schools” because your numbers form the basis of their decision.

Small schools may work differently:

  • Clarke University in Massachusetts tells you that who you are is as important as your grades and standardized test scores.
  • Bennington College in Vermont not only has interviews but will interview you twice if they think it is necessary.

So you know that Outside the Classroom is as important to Bennington College and Clarke University as Inside the Classroom.

Believe it or not most colleges will tell you what is important to them. These schools we call “fine-tooth” because they look at everything—and usually in great detail.

These are just examples but this is a good plan to have for each college. Your son or daughter will take an honest look at their strengths, talents and interests and they’ll try to match those with the schools in which they have an interest. It does mean some work on their part, but when they drop their application in the mail they’re going to feel a lot better about how it’s going to be read.

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