The Psychology of College Tours

Psychology College Admissions, College Tours, Campus Tours

Highly selective college admissions is all about psychology (photo credit: Daderot).

Regular readers of our college admissions blog know that the science of psychology quite frequently works itself into our posts. After all, highly selective college admissions is — in our view — a psychological science. It’s about persuading admissions officers to want to root for you. It’s about doing all you can do in your applications to not play into stereotype. It’s about convincing colleges you love them above all other colleges. It’s about showcasing how you’re going to change the world. Highly selective college admissions is not physics. It’s not algebra. It’s psychology.

So we read with great interest a piece today in “The New York Times” by Erica Reischer entitled “Skipping the College Tour” — a piece that highlights some of the psychology behind how and why students choose to matriculate to certain schools over others. The central argument is that going on college tours can cause more harm than good. And why? Because people don’t know what they want. Nobody does. They may think they know what they want. In fact, they do think they know what they want. But what they want in the present is not all that predictive of what they’ll want in the future. And to hear about meal plans and college traditions, well, it doesn’t help students predict what they’ll want in a college next week…or next year. Or thirty years from now.

We think this is hogwash. Absolute hogwash. One of the central arguments against college tours is that you don’t get to interact with students. As we’ve long championed on the pages of this blog — wander a bit away from that tour sometimes (or you can just do it in front of your tour guide). Talk to students. Do the smile test. Smile at students. See if they smile back. It’s a good indicator if students are happy at the school. Students at Dartmouth tend to smile back. At Carnegie Mellon? Maybe not as many. If you’re a parent, pretend you don’t know your child and ask anyone and everyone questions — not just your tour guide. And the argument that what we want now isn’t necessarily predictive of what we will want in the future…duh! As Reischer writes, “As Daniel Gilbert of Harvard University and Timothy Wilson of the University of Virginia have argued, our present selves believe we are good at making decisions for our future selves, but in fact we all do a relatively poor job of predicting what our future selves will actually value and enjoy.”

We are all about the influences of psychological science in college admissions. But the premise of this piece criticizing college tours in “The New York Times” — one based on psychological science — is, in a word, silly.

But how is that fixable? How on earth does not attending a college tour fix this age-old problem? Obviously not everyone knows exactly what they want in life. Of course opinions and perspectives change. Such is life. But, as they say, the best predictor of future success is past success. What better way do we have at our disposal to predict what we want in the future than to make a gut instinct based on what we want in the here and now?

Oh, and what the piece in “The New York Times” fails to mention is that if you don’t attend a college tour prior to your decision being rendered — you’re hurting your case for admission! Colleges want students who love them. They want students who visit. Is the college tour perfect? No. Is it one student’s opinions about a school infused with propaganda from the admissions office? You bet. But the more exposure you have to a college (be it a tour, information session, talking to students, talking to professors, visiting classes, eating in dining halls, using the bathroom facilities — we kid!), the more a student will be able to make an informed decision. And, at the end of the day, that’s all anyone can do.

A Defense of Early Decision

Early Decision, Early Decision Merits, Merits of Early Decision

There is an editorial in “The Dartmouth Review” that speaks to the merits of Early Decision policies.

There was an article yesterday in “The Dartmouth Review,” the conservative student publication at Dartmouth College once led by the likes of Laura Ingraham and Dinish D’Souza (they were once engaged) that essentially serves as a defense of Early Decision. Of course, the most often cited case against the merits of Early Decision policies at universities across America is that such policies favor the privileged. As Devon Kurtz writes for “The Dartmouth Review,” “The most often discussed issue with early-decision is that it notoriously favors students from prep schools, the Northeast, athletically competitive high schools, and wealthier backgrounds, as well as students with parents who are alumni. Early-decision, and its ‘benefit’ of a higher acceptance rate, seems to favor the already privileged students, while lower income students from adverse backgrounds and lower tier high schools battle it out in the fiercely competitive regular decision round of admission.”

But this, of course, is a fallacy. Admissions officers at highly selective colleges like Dartmouth College are seeking underprivileged students in the Early Decision round just as they’re looking for them in the Regular Decision round. It’s not like in the months of November and December, first-generation college applicants and students from low-income families aren’t of interest to admissions officers — that their interest only peaks in January, February, and March. Admissions officers covet these students in Early Decision just as they do in Regular Decision and any suggestion otherwise is, well, ridiculous. Are there a lot of recruited athletes in the Early Decision round? Are there a lot of legacies? You bet. But there are privileged students in the Regular Decision round too and this doesn’t change the fact that colleges are always, always searching for geographic diversity, ethnic diversity, socio-economic diversity…you name it.

If the argument is that not enough underprivileged students apply in the Early round, well, that’s not a knock on the policy. That just means that awareness needs to be raised about the benefits of applying Early — including the significantly higher acceptance rates. So many low-income students choose not to apply Early because they don’t know of these benefits, because they lack strong college counseling, because they’re under the misimpression that there’s this great benefit in the Regular Decision round that you can weigh various financial aid offers. It’s a misimpression because you can figure out what kind of financial aid you’re going to receive from a given institution before you even apply — through the Net Price Calculator. So why do you need to wait to weigh financial aid offers? The argument is unsound.

And so is the argument that Early decision favors the wealthy. As Kurtz writes, “The benefits of early-decision speak for themselves: lower acceptance rates, more loyal students, higher four-year retention rate, lower transfer acceptance rate.” Early Decision doesn’t favor the wealthy. It favors the students who are willing to commit. It favors the students who are willing to show their love for a university.                    

Leadership and College Admissions

Leadership in Admissions, Ivy League and Leaders, Leaders in Admissions

There was a piece recently in “Forbes” on the topic of leadership in highly selective college admissions.

It’s all about leadership in college admissions. Right? Well, it depends how you define ‘leadership.’ There was a piece recently published on “Forbes” by Willard Dix entitled “‘Nobodies’ Can Be ‘Somebodies’ In College Admission” that we just had to share with our readers. In the piece, Dix makes the argument that America’s most highly selective colleges only seek leaders. As Dix puts it, “In the world of college admission, an obsession with leadership has students trying to be president of any number of clubs and organizations as if they were collecting pelts. It’s not enough to be a member of the swim team, student council, yearbook and orchestra, even for four years; you need to be captain, president, editor and concert master.”

But while we applaud the spirit of Dix’s argument, his argument is unsound. America’s most highly selective colleges do not just seek leaders — at least in terms of leadership as he defines it. Yes, you read that correctly, parents. We know. It’s so deeply ingrained in your brains that your children need to showcase their leadership skills in order to earn admission to the most elite schools in our nation. But while it may be deeply ingrained, it is also a very common — one of the most common — misconceptions. Let’s say it again. You do not need to be a leader to get into one of our nation’s most selective schools if leadership means captaining teams and serving as the president of after-school clubs. What you do need to do is showcase how you’re going to change the world in a particular area….now that kind of leadership is leadership every highly selective college seeks. And how do you showcase this to admissions officers? Through your many admissions essays, through your letters of recommendation, through your activities, and more.

Each and every one of our students at Ivy Coach who work with us through the college admissions process showcase how they intend to change the world.

Our nation’s most selective colleges do indeed want people who are going to change the world. But that doesn’t mean you need to be a leader of some club that half the school is a member of nor does that mean you need to be a captain of an athletic team. Indeed, unless you’re getting recruited for the sport you captain, your captainship doesn’t exactly mean all that much to a college. How many swim team captains who aren’t fast enough to swim for a college’s swim team do you think apply to an Ivy League school each year? A lot. And it inspires a yawn in highly selective admissions offices far and wide.

So while we disagree with the notion of calling the “non-leaders” ‘nobodies,’ Dix should be happy that colleges don’t just seek students who captain teams and lead lame after-school clubs. His argument is flawed but the spirit of his argument — is, perhaps to his surprise, a reality.

Did you think otherwise? What are your thoughts on leadership in college admissions? Post your thoughts below and we’ll be sure to jump in on the conversation.

If You Wish To Transfer Colleges

Transferring Colleges, To Transfer Colleges, Transfer Schools

We work with many students on transfer applications during the summer before freshman year of college.

It’s April 23rd. That means that procrastinating students who applied during the Regular Decision admissions cycle still have some time to decide where exactly they wish to spend the next four years of their lives. Most students have made up their minds by now. But you’d be amazed how many are still undecided, vacillating between two schools…or more! It’s time to make a decision. Visit the schools. Smile at students. See if they smile back at you. It’s a great indicator of whether or not they’re happy at the school — perhaps even more so than what they express to you verbally.

But what also never ceases to amaze us is how many parents and students are already dead set on transferring. Around this time every year, we hear from students and parents (who did not work with us through the college admissions process), wondering what went wrong. We give them postmortem evaluations, perusing their entire applications so they know precisely what they did right — and what they didn’t do so right. Or, to put it plainly, what they did so very wrong. It’s not so that they kick themselves. It’s so that if they ever do wish to transfer, they don’t apply using the same bad strategies that they employed the first time around.

And for the parents and students who are so unhappy with the school the student will be attending in the fall, we do advise working on transfer applications during the summer months before college…before college starts. And why? Well, for starters, we want students getting great grades in college. It will help their case for transfer admission. Working on transfer college applications will be a distraction. We also want students to be happy this next year. So they should immerse themselves in all that college has to offer — even if it’s not their dream college. We don’t want them focused on the way out. Sure, they’ll have completed their applications for transfer admission during the summer months. But now they can move on with their lives and submit the applications (with some minor tweaks based on what they do during their first year — activities we delineate with them) come spring for transfer admission.

So for those students interested in transferring to, say, an Ivy League school (even Princeton now admits transfers!), don’t wait until the winter or spring to work on those applications. The summer before college is the time to get those applications into outstanding shape.

Ivy Coach Protects Our IP

Ivy Coach IP, College Admissions Content, Admissions Content

Ivy Coach is a proud American business. And we proudly protect our intellectual property.

They say that imitation is flattery. We disagree. You see, just about every day, we come across private college counselors and other folks who copy our content verbatim. Maybe they plagiarize a paragraph from one of the thousands of pages of our website here and there. Maybe they republish one of our Founder’s articles on “The Huffington Post” verbatim and only change the byline — claiming Bev’s words to be their own. Maybe they violate our legally granted trademarks, including “Ivy Coach,” confusing our brand.

What never ceases to amaze us is that these folks think we won’t notice. They think we won’t notice when they plagiarize us, when they violate our copyrights, or when they infringe upon our registered trademarks. They think they’ll get away with it. They won’t. We are an American business. A proud American business. We live in a nation that values intellectual property. It is part of what makes America, well, America. It is the great facilitator of the American dream — the notion that what we dream up, and what we then legally protect, is our own and not anybody else’s. It’s why Robert Kearns successfully sued the Ford Motor Company for violating his patents when they integrated his intermittent windshield wiper with their Ford cars. Ford Motor Company tried to profit off the ingenuity of an inventor…and cut out that inventor. Not in this country. Not in these United States.

The right to protect intellectual property is a fundamental American value, even creed.

May this echo from sea to shining sea. May this echo from the green mountains of Vermont to the prairies of Kansas to the rainforests of northern California to the lakes of Michigan. Ivy Coach will protect our trademarks, our copyrights, our intellectual property as the law provides. If you don’t protect your intellectual property, you set an example that it’s ok for other folks to violate your IP. Not to this American business. It will never be ok. Not today. Not ever.

Princeton Class of 2021

Princeton 2021, 2021 at Princeton, Princeton University 2021

A piece in “The Daily Princetonian” highlights the makeup of the incoming Princeton Class of 2021.

In a banner year for Princeton University, the school admitted just 6.1% of applicants to its Class of 2021. In all, 31,056 students applied for admission to Princeton University this year, while 1,890 were offered the chance to be Tigers. Princeton is anticipating a class size of approximately 1,308 students — or about a 69% matriculation rate based on matriculate rates at Princeton from years past. As they say, the best predictor of future performance is past performance so schools are usually fairly accurate with their anticipated matriculation rates (though rainy days on admitted students’ weekends can have a negative influence, as but one example).

As reports Audrey Spensley for “The Daily Princetonian,” “50.5 percent of admitted applicants are women and 49.5 percent are men, representing a higher percentage of admitted women than in previous years. Additionally, 47.3 percent of the 24.1 percent of students who applied under the B.S.E program were women. Nearly 20 percent of the students offered admission will be the first in their families to attend college, the largest number in recent memory. Students were admitted from 49 states and 76 countries, with 12.1 percent of admitted students coming from countries besides the U.S. The most-represented states were New Jersey, California, New York, Texas, Pennsylvania, Florida, Massachusetts, and Georgia, in order. The only state not represented is Montana. Students were also admitted from Washington, D.C., Guam, Puerto Rico, American Samoa, and the Virgin Islands. Of the admitted students, 63.8 percent attended public schools. The University press release also noted that over half of admitted applicants self-identify as ‘people of color, including biracial and multiracial students.’ Additionally, nearly 11 percent of admitted students are children of University alumni.”

We like that nearly 20% of admitted students will be the first in their families to attend college — that’s very cool indeed! Highly selective colleges like Princeton covet their first-generation college students. And as for Princeton admitting students from 49 states, you can bet that if a student had a pulse in that 50th state, Princeton would have likely offered the student admission. Colleges love to brag that they have students in their incoming class from all 50 states. 49 is close…but no cigar.

A big congratulations to our students at Ivy Coach who were offered admission to the Princeton Class of 2021! And, while you’re here, read about the Early Action round at Princeton for the Class of 2021.


Yale NUS, Yale NUS College, Yale in Singapore

Students who graduate from Yale-NUS College in Singapore do not graduate with a degree from Yale University.

Yale-NUS College, which is based in Singapore, recently reported that its admission rate — not for the Class of 2021 but for the Class of 2020 (hey, they’re a bit behind with their announcements…it takes a while for word to travel from Singapore maybe?) stood at 5%. In all, students in the Yale-NUS Class of 2020 hail from 20 countries. Leading the pack is — naturally — Singapore. A number of students also hail from the United States, India, and China.

A parent recently reached out to us and let us know that his child got into Yale and will be attending Yale. He then added that the student will be attending Yale-NUS. And while we hate to burst bubbles, that is not Yale. It is not a Yale degree. It is not a Yale education. It’s not like you attend Yale-NUS for a year and can then attend and graduate from Yale. While we had students admitted to Yale-NUS College this year, not one confused Yale-NUS College with Yale University. The two are not the same. A degree from this school in Singapore is not a degree from an Ivy League school. Bursting bubbles, we know.

As reports Ishaan Srivastava for “The Yale Daily News” in a piece about Yale-NUS, “Though it was established as an autonomous college within the National University of Singapore, Yale-NUS does not follow the practice of NUS in releasing an indication of the grade profiles for the majority of applicants admitted in the previous academic year. A section of the admissions website devoted to frequently asked questions states that there is no ‘magical set of courses, grades, essay topics and accomplishments that will guarantee admission to Yale-NUS College.'”

Yale and Coalition Application

Yale Application, Coalition and Yale, Yale University Application

A piece in “The Yale Daily News” highlights how few students applied to Yale this year with the Coalition application — and how even those low numbers were largely fueled by Florida applicants.

There’s a piece in “The Yale Daily News” by Luke Ciancarelli entitled “317 apply to Yale through Coalition App” that highlights how few students chose to use the Coalition application to apply to Yale University for the Class of 2021. If you’re wondering what percentage of applicants applied to the New Haven-based school through the Coalition application, that figure stands at a mere 1%. That’s right. 1%. So, no, Common App. isn’t exactly fretting about the “insurgent” Coalition for Access, Affordability, and Success application.

Many would view this 1% figure to be disappointing to the Yale admissions office, particularly since Yale’s Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Jeremiah Quinlan is a member of the Board of Directors of The Coalition for Access, Affordability, and Success and a highly vocal supporter of the merits of the Coalition application. Regular readers of our college admissions blog know that we have been quite critical of the shortsighted Coalition application — an application that was released with the best of intentions but was, well, half-baked at best. And we very vocally predicted its failure.

So, in spite of the spin attempt by the executive director of the Coalition, Annie Reznik, when she states to “The Yale Daily News,” “It’s a great start. We know that there will be more students using the Coalition application next year simply by virtue of adding more schools who will accept the application,” the data says otherwise. A great start? Not so much. It’s a wonderful thing to try to expand access to college, to try to make it easier for high school students to apply to colleges. We fully support this mission. The thing is — while that’s the objective, the mission of the Coalition for Education, their application, in our humble opinion, seems to make applying to college only more difficult and more restrictive. The irony indeed.

Brown University Letter

Brown Letter, Brown University Admission Letter, Brown Letter to Students

A letter sent out by the Brown admissions office has made the news (photo credit: Ad Meskens).

It’s no secret that America’s universities tend to be liberal. And it’s no secret that the Ivy League universities are among the most liberal of the bunch. Does that mean that these institutions don’t seek out opposing viewpoints? They certainly do. Admissions officers at Ivy League colleges are drawn to students who will contribute to the diversity of their institutions — and that absolutely does include diversity of thought. Yes, they even seek out students with conservative viewpoints. We see some of you folks shaking your heads. But they sure do.

Recently, a piece in “The Wall Street Journal” by James Freeman highlighted a letter that Brown University’s Dean of Admissions Logan Powell sent to an admitted student, as reported by “The Brown Daily Herald.” As Freeman writes, “Among those lucky few is the daughter of a Journal reader who is still trying to make sense of a letter the family received this week from Mr. Powell. Our reader’s bright daughter had already received news of her acceptance when a letter arrived that was addressed to her ‘Parent/Guardian.’ Oddly, the note referred to the accepted student not as ‘she’ but as ‘they.’ Dean Powell’s letter also stated that our reader’s daughter had no doubt worked hard and made positive contributions to ‘their’ school and community. Our reader reports that his perplexed family initially thought that Brown had made a word-processing error. That was before they listened to a voice mail message from the school congratulating his daughter and referring to her as ‘them.'”

We’re truly not sure where we stand on this letter. On the one hand, we absolutely applaud universities that make their campuses more inclusive in embracing trans students. Universities across the United States can and must do more to make their campuses more welcoming to all members of the LGBTQ community. Perhaps Dean Powell wrote the letter in this way so as not to have to “find and replace” all the pronouns depending on if the admitted student is male or female (though the voicemail seems to contradict this theory). We always find that cumbersome when folks reach out to us about their sons or daughters. ‘They’ does seem easier. It leaves less room for error, especially when we’re not sure about the student’s gender based on the name alone. But we also see the point that it’s a bit extreme to apply this rule to all students — including the vast majority of students who have always identified with their gender. In a way, it’s kind of a way of Brown — historically the most liberal of the Ivies — saying that we’re a liberal school, get with the program or maybe Brown isn’t for you. And that’s not exactly shouting out that Brown values diversity of opinion. But maybe we’re wrong. Your thoughts?

Or maybe the Brown admissions office has just been watching a whole lot of “Billions” lately, a show that features a fascinating character who prefers to identify by the pronoun ‘they’?

2017-2018 Common App Changes

Common Application Changes, 2017-2018 Common App, Common Application for 2017-2018

There will be a few changes to the 2017-2018 Common Application (photo credit: Daderot).

We previously reported on the change to the Common Application Personal Statement prompt for the 2017-2018 college admissions cycle. Common App. decided to bring back the “topic of your choice” prompt. We’re still applauding. It was the right move, Common App. You did good, you did good. But we figured we’d report on other, less significant changes coming to the Common Application for the 2017-2018 admissions cycle. So what else is changing, you ask?

Well, if you’re familiar with the University of California application, you know that students have to enter not only their senior year courses but all of their courses through high school. Even though all of this information can be found on a student’s high school transcript, students are asked to insert all of the tedious but super important information anyway. And now the Common Application is asking students to do the same. So all of a student’s high school courses (and grades) will now be entered into Common App. and all of this information can then be confirmed through the student’s transcript that is sent by the high school to colleges.

Another change? Students will now be able to invite folks into their Common App. accounts much like how high school counselors can have access. So if you want the butcher or local mechanic to be able to access your Common Application to review everything you’re submitting to colleges, your butcher and mechanic can now have easy access. Welcome, Peanut Gallery! Of course, private college counselors can now also get official access to a student’s Common Application but we won’t be asking for such access anytime soon. There’s no reason we can’t log in with a student’s credentials. Even though Common App. likely won’t be sharing with colleges who has access to a student’s Common App., call us neurotic but we don’t want official accounts. We work exclusively behind the scenes and we always will.

There are a couple of other changes coming to the Common App. for the 2017-2018 admissions cycle that we’ll write more about in the coming days but, again, the changes are insignificant at best.

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