Thoughts from Deans of Admission

Dean of Admission, Deans of Admission, Deans of Admission Thoughts

We’ve got some opinions on the opinions expressed by a few deans of admission in a “New York Times” piece. Us opinionated? Who knew.

Lisa Heffernan brought a piece she co-wrote for “The New York Times” to our attention. The piece, authored with Jennifer Wallace, is entitled “Advice College Admissions Officers Give Their Own Kids” and we figured we’d share it with the readers of our college admissions blog. But as our loyal readers know all too well, we don’t just share the advice of others. We offer our own two cents on their advice. We’re all about two cents.

Clark Brigger, executive director for undergraduate admissions at Penn State University, shared this as his advice: “I tell my kids, ‘Do not wait for the deadline to submit your applications.’ There’s a rule in our house that I pay for the applications completed before Labor Day, but after that, my children are responsible for the fees.” Ummm, has Mr. Brigger really thought this out? If a student submits a Regular Decision application before Labor Day, aren’t admissions officers going to wonder why the kid didn’t apply via Early Decision / Early Action instead? Oy vey is right.

Submit all Regular Decision applications before the Early deadline? That would be a most unwise move! Yikes.

Stuart Schmill, dean of admissions at MIT, offered this tidbit: “What I tell students, and my own kids, is that you don’t have to take every advanced class. My high school daughter, for example, is taking advanced math and science courses but chose not to take advanced English and history. You should challenge yourself. For some students this might mean taking the most advanced classes, but it also might mean taking the most advanced classes appropriate for that student, and not spreading themselves too thin.” Mr. Schmill, while this certainly sounds logical, we think your advice would be very different if your own kids were applying to MIT.  But, on second thought, if your kids were applying to MIT, they really shouldn’t worry too much about getting in. We think they’ll do just fine there!

And Gil Villanueva, associate vice president and dean of admission at University of Richmond, offered this: “As my son prepares his college list, I’m going to hand him a spreadsheet. Across the top will be the schools, and down the side will be the list of things he feels are most important to him in a college. …I’ll have him track what I call the ‘three rates’ for each college. The first is the retention rate: Are students returning as sophomores? Because if they are, then I make the argument that they have had a very good experience, their needs are met. Next is the graduation rate. A fifth year or a sixth year in a college represents forgone income or time that you are not in graduate school — and you are not going to get that back.” Mr. Villanueva, while this seems sensible, it won’t accomplish much if your son is applying to highly selective colleges because these numbers are going to all be in a very similar range. If all the colleges he’s applying to are selective (even if not highly selective), then those numbers are also going to be very similar.


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