Sunday, May 14, 2017
Dear Mr. Bradshaw,
I was surprised to learn that my neighbor's son was turned down by all of the top colleges he applied to last year. He was a brilliant student with an outstanding academic record. I am worried about the same fate for my daughter.
We have asked many people about admissions procedures and protocols and nobody seems to have an answer that would account for a top student not being admitted.
Is it all about connections? Legacy students whose parents are alumni and who contribute a lot of money to the college?
Sincerely, Concerned Parent
Dear Concerned Parent,
You pose a number of important questions. Certainly legacy students and those whose parents are major donors will always have a leg up when it comes to admissions.
It is important to note that America's leading colleges are no longer looking solely for students with great grades and top test scores, they are looking for students who they believe will make a real and meaningful impact on their community and in our world. Having the ability to make this kind of contribution as a high school student can be tough, but launching and growing your own student venture will set you apart from others in the college admissions process.
In my 20 years of interviewing and preparing students for top colleges, I have found that evidence of leadership is by far, the most important characteristic used in determining who is admitted. The risk is trying to develop these skills within the confines of traditional extracurricular activities. Your daughter may have to step outside the box and launch her own venture.
Here is my recipe for success should she choose to do this.
First, she should pick a project that is important to her — perhaps a program to help improve the environment or combat drug use among students. She will need a vision of who she wants to help and who she needs on board to help the group achieve her goals.
Start out by writing an informal proposal for the project. Outline the elements that she wants to include in her activity and make sure that she comes up with a clear mission statement. The mission should be relatively simple and should speak to what the project seeks to accomplish.
The proposal should outline how the project will be accomplished. It will describe the "plan of attack" and will provide information about the specific activities that will help her achieve her goal.
Here are some of the skills that she will enhance and/or develop should she choose to start her own venture:
• Learning to speak and write confidently.
• Establishing a clear vision, mission, and goals.
• Forming a dedicated team and membership base.
• Building community support and excitement.
• Event planning.
• Writing effective letters, invitations and promotional materials.
• Budgeting for long-term success.
• Taking steps to ensure long-term sustainability of the venture.
Some of the most compelling applications I have read over the years have featured student inspired and led projects. I guarantee that college admissions professionals will take notice!
Gerald Bradshaw is an international college admission consultant with Bradshaw College Consulting in Crown Point.
Colleges and Universities, College Consulting, International Students
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