Applying To College

College Essay Writing and Interview Skills


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Common Application News and Statistics

The Common Application has come out with some interesting statistics for this past year (2011-12)

Total Number of Applications

  • 2.75 million (up 16% from the previous year)

Who’s Using the Common Application?

  • 56% female
  • 52% white
  • 8% international students
  • 32% are the first generation to apply to college
  • 71% of applicants go to public school
  • Less than 1% are home schooled

Member Schools

Change is Coming

  • Next year (2013-2014) the Common Application will introduce Common App 4.0
  • College essay topics will change annually, although students will still be able to write on a topic of their choice.
  • Essay topics will be announced each March instead of August, which will give students the opportunity to begin writing earlier.
  • The Common App is also talking about putting a firm limit on the number of words that can be uploaded for the personal essay, although whether that means the current Common Application essay 500 word limit will remain at 500 words is still undecided.
  • Common App 4.0 will launch August 1, 2013.

related articles:
Peterson’s: Using the Common Application as Your College Application
U.S. News: Should I Use the Common Application?

Sharon Epstein, FIrst Impressions College Consulting..Sharon Epstein is owner of First Impressions College Consulting
Need help? I work with students everywhere: in-person, over the phone, and by computer. Visit my website for more info.
Connect with Me:

follow Sharon Epstein on Twitterfollow Sharon Epstein on pinterest

Leave a comment — let me know what you think!


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College Admissions Information: University of Connecticut

uconn husky

Welcome to an Ongoing Series on College Admissions

If you’re starting the college admissions process you’ve probably discovered that it’s not always easy to find answers to your college admissions questions. That’s why I created a place where you can hear directly from college admission counselors about applying to college, interviewing for college, writing the college application essay and financial aid.

I developed these questions with help from families who’ve recently been through the college application process. Because each school answers the same questions you’ll be able to compare information with other schools.

I hope you find this a valuable resource for college admissions information. Who knows? You might even find yourself considering options you hadn’t thought of before.

UConn logo

With the introduction out of the way, let’s find out about the University of Connecticut.

Founded in 1881 and set in the beautiful unspoiled forests of the northeast, the University of Connecticut is located in Storrs. There are 5 regional campuses: Avery Point, Greater Hartford, Stamford, Torrington, and Waterbury.

UConn is one of the premier national public universities in the country, recently ranking in the Top 20 Public Universities by U.S. News & World Report. It offers world-class faculty and academics, as well as vibrant activities and NCAA Athletics, including recent national championships in Men’s and Women’s Basketball.

UConn students come from diverse backgrounds: More than a quarter of students represent ethnic minorities, and the student body is selected from countries and cultures around the globe. The school’s proximity to Boston and New York City affords students easy access to internships or simply a weekend escape.

This post focuses on UConn’s main campus at Storrs. Look for information on the regional campuses in a later post.

Facts about UConn/Storrs Campus

  • Undergraduate enrollment: 17,815 (2011)
  • Entering freshmen enrollment: 3,327 (2011)
  • Connecticut residents: 75% of undergrads
  • Undergraduate costs 2012-13: In State: $22,382 (Tuition & Fees: $11,242; Room & Board: $11,140) Out of State: $40,214 (Tuition & Fees: $29,074; Room & Board: $11,140)
  • Average SAT score: 1216
  • Students receiving financial aid: Over 75 percent
  • Athletics: NCAA Division I


ADMISSIONS QUESTIONS

Nathan Fuerst, Director of Undergraduate Admissions, answered the following questions during a recent interview:

Q: What percentage of applicants does UConn admit?

A: Approximately 45% of applicants are successful in gaining admission to UConn’s Storrs campus.

Applying to UConn

Q: Does applying early decision/action improve a student’s chances for admission?

A: For the Fall 2013 term, UConn will no longer facilitate an early action/decision program.

Q: How important are extracurricular activities in admissions decisions?

A: Involvement beyond academics is important and is considered.  We encourage students to focus on investing themselves heavily in a limited number of activities and demonstrate the impact from their activity on both the community as well as their development as young adults.

Q: How important is taking advanced, accelerated, or honors courses?

A: It’s important that students take the appropriate opportunities to challenge themselves academically.  Therefore, we do consider advanced and honors courses.  However, it’s just as important for students to remain in course levels that are appropriate for their level of skill and aptitude for the particular subject.

Q: Which teachers should write a recommendation?

A: Recommendations that make the most impact come across as authentic and personal.  Students should approach teachers with whom they have strong relationships.  Teachers who contribute beyond just academic performance provide the most revealing and helpful information in the recommendation letters. 

Q: Do you look for what is not said in a recommendation?

A: We avoid drawing conclusions or speculating on what may or may not be omitted from a recommendation.  However, it is often apparent when there is inconsistency in message between the recommendations that we receive.

Q: Is the quality of an applicant’s high school taken into consideration?

A: The application review is a holistic one that allows us to take any and all factors in to consideration.  Strength of school is something that could be considered in the context of how the student has performed given the educational opportunities and challenges that are available within a particular school. 

Q: What is the relative importance of grades versus board scores?

A: Both factors are critical pieces in our review of applicants for admission for different reasons.  Therefore, it is difficult to cast one against the other.  Grades provide great insight on a student’s capacity for academic success, but using board scores remains the only reliable method of comparing applicant performance that transcends an individual school. 

Interviewing

Q: Does UConn offer interviews with admissions counselors?

A: Given the size of our applicant pool and staff, we are unable to offer interviews.

Essay Writing

Q: What qualities do you look for in a well-written essay?

A: We challenge students to write on a unique subject that has either defined who they are as a person or demonstrates the impact of their contributions through their activity in their environment.

Q: Is there a type of essay you would recommend against?

A: Applicants should consider their subject matter more globally and how it sets them apart from other students in the applicant pool.  For example, when writing on a life event, consider what makes this a unique life event compared to other applicants.

Q: Can an essay make or break an admission?

A: Yes.  I recall an applicant whose subject and style was so profound and unique that I felt honored to offer such a talented author admission.  Another example included a student who wrote about community contributions that had incredible global impact.  The subject of this essay was driven by extremely hard work that impacted the lives of students in villages in India and Africa.  It was very inspiring!

Q: Should a student discuss or explain a poor grade or marking period(s)?

A: When a grade is out of character, it may justify the student addressing this.  However, we encourage students to use their personal statements as an opportunity to present their unique qualities, contributions and achievements.  A single grade should not be made the focus of an application.

Q: Where do you stand on the 500 word limit on the Common Application’s personal statement? Can a student go over the Common Application’s 500 word limit?

A: We do have some amount of flexibility. We want students to express themselves as best they can. If that means that they go a few words over — about 100 — that’s okay. But we also want the student to be cognizant of the Common Application’s 500 word limit because some students can carry on for a while.  I’d say to students write your college application essay as briefly and succinctly as you can, but don’t feel like you need to leave out any major pieces, either.

Financial Aid at UConn

Q: How has the economic climate affected the admissions process and the availability of financial aid at UConn?

A: This year (2012)  seems to be an improvement over the past several years.  When the economy struggles, it forces families to take a closer look at finances and seriously consider their educational options based on cost of attendance.  Over the past several years, there has been an increase in the number of students submitting the FAFSA to us. UConn has a priority of providing as much financial assistance as possible to students who demonstrate financial need.

Q: What part of the admissions process is most misunderstood?

A: I think the financial piece of going to college is most misunderstood, as it can vary dramatically from one institution to the next. Eligibility for scholarships varies widely from school to school. Different schools have different policies, different requirements and different ways to apply, and that can make the scholarship process difficult to understand. If students or families need help understanding the scholarship opportunities at UConn, they should visit our undergraduate admissions page, student financial aid web page, or contact the Office of Student Financial Aid Services at (860) 486-2819.

Connect with UConn

Q: How can people connect with UConn?

A: Students can connect with us via Facebook and our YouTube channel. We also have a Twitter account and student bloggers.  Students who connect with UConn via these channels get regular updates on deadlines as well as updates on relevant activity at UConn.

Finally…

Q: Please ask and answer a question that you’d like students and families to know about UConn.
Question: What is the retention rate of first year students returning in their second year?

A: Ninety-three percent of first year students and 92% of students of color return for their sophomore year, exceeding the national average of 72.9%.

To Contact the University of Connecticut:

Office of Undergraduate Admissions
2131 Hillside Road, Unit 3088
Storrs, CT 06269-3088
Phone: (860) 486-3137
www.admissions.uconn.edu

other posts in this series:

Housatonic Community College
Ithaca College
Quinnipiac University
Sacred Heart University
University of Bridgeport

Sharon Epstein, FIrst Impressions College Consulting..Sharon Epstein is owner of First Impressions College Consulting
Need help? I work with students everywhere: in-person, over the phone, and by computer. Visit my website for more info.
Connect with me on Google+, Twitter and Pinterest:

follow Sharon Epstein on Twitterfollow Sharon Epstein on pinterest

Leave a comment — let me know what you think!



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Interviews with College Admissions Counselors: Quinnipiac University

Quinnipiac Unversity logoWelcome to an Ongoing Series on College Admissions

If you’re starting the college admissions process you’ve probably discovered that it’s not always easy to find answers to your college admissions questions. That’s why I created a place where you can hear directly from college admission counselors about applying to college, interviewing for college, college application essay writing, and financial aid.

I developed these questions with help from families who’ve recently been through the college admissions process. Because each school answers the same questions you’ll be able to compare information with other schools.

I hope you find this a valuable resource for college admissions information. Who knows? You might even find yourself considering options you hadn’t thought of before.

With the introduction out of the way, let’s find out about Quinnipiac University.

Quinnipiac University is a private, coeducational university located in Hamden and North Haven, Connecticut. Consistently ranked among the best universities by U.S. News & World Report, Quinnipiac offers 52 undergraduate majors and 20 graduate programs, plus the JD program (School of Law). It’s also home to the nationally renowned Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

Quinnipiac, committed to teaching and collaboration, strives to foster partnerships among students and with faculty through excellence in education, a spirit of community, small classes, and ready faculty access.

Some Facts:

  • Full-time faculty: 308
  • Student-to-faculty ratio: 16 to 1
  • Average class size: under 25
  • Undergraduate enrollment: 5,900
  • Undergraduate costs 2011-12: $49,560 (Tuition & fees: $36,130; room & board for freshmen: $13,430)
  • Undergraduate students receiving financial aid, 2010-2011: 76 percent
  • Athletics: NCAA: Division I

ADMISSIONS QUESTIONS

Joanne Robertson, Assistant Director of Admissions and Transcript Evaluator, answered the following questions for us:

Q: What percentage of applicants do you admit?

A: The answer to that question depends on the major chosen by the student who is applying.  Our overall percentage is around 50%.  However, for our competitive majors such as nursing, physical therapy, physician assistant or occupational therapy the admit rate is closer to 40% of the applicants.

Applying

Q: Does applying early decision/action improve a student’s chances for admission?

A: This is the first year that we will be implementing that option.  Again, based on the major choice it could improve their chances.  For our most competitive majors, that will not likely be the case.  We do always suggest that students apply sooner rather than later to improve their chances of acceptance.

Q: How important are extracurricular activities in admissions decisions?

A: They do play a factor but not as significant as high school GPA, rank in class and standardized test scores.

Q: How important is taking advanced, accelerated, or honors courses?

A: Very important for the competitive majors.  It would definitely benefit those students looking for admission to our most competitive majors.  We do however, tell students to take a class that will challenge them academically, but not one that will overwhelm them and hurt their GPA significantly.

Q: Which teachers should write a recommendation?

A: Our suggestion to students is to get a letter of recommendation from a teacher that really knows them well.  It could be in a subject that they did very well in, or from a teacher who knows that they struggled but overcame obstacles for success.

Q: Do you look for what is not said in a recommendation?

A: Most definitely.  After a while all of the letters of recommendation seem to say the same things.  You do need to read between the lines to get a better picture of an applicant.

Q: Is the quality of an applicant’s high school taken into consideration?

A: Yes, all of our counselors are very familiar with the high schools in the area that they cover.  There is a big difference in some of the high schools and we do take that into consideration.

Q: What is the relative importance of grades versus board scores?

A: We ask all students to send us all SAT or ACT scores received.  We will take the best score received in Verbal and Math as their scores for consideration.  We look at the whole student so both areas receive consideration.

Q: There’s been controversy about using tests like the SAT and ACT in the admissions process. Where does your school stand?

A: Right now we are still using the standardized test scores to assist us in evaluating students for admission.

Interviewing

Q: Does Quinnipiac University offer interviews with admissions counselors?

A: Yes.

Q: What interview skills are most lacking?

A: Students sometimes do not make eye contact or cannot hold up their end of a conversation.

Q: What would you suggest students think about before they come to an interview?

A: Think about what they want to know about Quinnipiac.  It is always a good interview when a student has questions about Quinnipiac, the application process or college life in general.  There is nothing worse than just a recitation of accomplishments.

Q: Should a student discuss or explain a poor grade or marking period(s)? If so, when?

A: We definitely would like to know about poor grades.  The timing depends on when the grades were received.  Obviously, we would look to see improvement if the issue was in freshman, sophomore year.  Junior year they could reference it in the essay or speak to a counselor in a visit.

Essay Writing

Q: What qualities do you look for in a well-written essay?

A: A well written essay needs to begin with spelling and grammar.  Many students use spell check, but it certainly won’t tell them that the use of the word their vs. there is incorrect.  I suggest that students have at least one other person, preferably a parent or older sibling, take a look at the essay.  I love a creative essay.  It can focus on a special person in their life or an interesting book that they read.  It is hard to say exactly what works for every counselor.

Q: Is there a type of essay you would recommend against? 

A: I wouldn’t necessarily say any essay topic is bad, but personally I see too many of the athletic moments that build character.  Some of the best ones that I have read talk about work experiences or chance encounters with people who have changed the student’s perceptions.

Q: Can an essay make or break an admission?

A: I don’t think an essay has ever broken an admission for a strong student academically.  It can make an admission, particularly if that student has a story to tell.  I have read essays from students that provide details on a difficult life and struggles they have had on their way to the admission process.  The best line that I read from a transfer student was when he explained why he wanted to go to college after a stint in construction.  He compared himself to an animal that will be put down after they cannot do the job any more.  He said that by completing his education, he would not be anyone’s mule again.

Q: Where do you stand on the 500 word limit on the Common Application’s personal statement? Can a student go over the Common Application’s 500 word limit?

A: What we usually tell students is to write as many words as it takes to tell the story.  It is important that they have it reviewed by an English teacher if possible for grammar and composition.  If not, then read it out loud to a parent or older sibling.  If they find that it is too wordy or doesn’t make sense, go back and revise.   It’s fine to go over if you need more words to give us a complete picture of how an event or person impacted  your life.  Just don’t embellish too much, use words just because you can or the worst thing of all, send the wrong essay to the wrong school.  And, spell check is not fool-proof, use a dictionary if you are unsure of a spelling or meaning.

Financial Aid

Q: How has the recession affected the admissions process and the availability of financial aid?

A: The process has been affected quite dramatically.  I actually met with a student and his mom this week who have just determined that they will need financial aid.  They are not sure if he will be able to start with us this fall and are looking at community college for a semester.  We are looking at more and more families needing help and less aid to offer.

Finally…

Q: What part of the admissions process is most misunderstood?

A: All students need to realize that the admissions process is somewhat subjective.  They should also know that even if they don’t get into their first choice school, they will find a great place that will provide them with a good education and a great college experience.

Q: How can people connect with Quinnipiac and your students?

We do have a Quinnipiac Facebook page and we have an undergraduate admissions blog.  The Twitter feed is on that page.  Quinnipiac also has its own YouTube channel.

To Contact Quinnipiac University:

275 Mount Carmel Avenue
Hamden, CT 06518-1908
203-582-8600
admissions@quinnipiac.edu

other posts in this series:

Ithaca College
Sacred Heart University
University of Bridgeport

Housatonic Community College

other posts in this series:

Housatonic Community College
Ithaca College
Sacred Heart University
University of Bridgeport
University of Connecticut

Sharon Epstein, FIrst Impressions College Consulting..Sharon Epstein is owner of First Impressions College Consulting
Need help? I work with students everywhere: in-person, over the phone, and by computer. Visit my website for more info.
Connect with Me:

 

follow Sharon Epstein on Twitterfollow Sharon Epstein on pinterest


5 Comments

Interviews with College Admissions Counselors: Ithaca College

Welcome to an Ongoing Series on College Admissions.

Updated June 21, 2012

If you’re starting the college admissions process you’ve probably discovered that it’s not always easy to find answers to your college admissions questions. That’s why I created a place where you can hear directly from college admission counselors about applying to college, college interviews, college application essay writing, and financial aid.

I developed these questions with help from families who’ve recently been through the college admissions process. Because each school answers the same questions you’ll be able to compare information with other schools.

I hope this will be an excellent resource for anyone looking for college admissions information. Who knows? You might even find yourself considering options you hadn’t thought of before.

With the introduction out of the way, let’s find out about Ithaca College.

Ithaca College, founded in 1892, located in Ithaca, New York, is a private, coeducational college offering undergraduate and graduate programs in business, communications, health sciences and human performance, humanities and sciences, music, and interdisciplinary studies. U.S News and World Report ranks the school #11 of regional universities (north).

As of Fall 2010 Ithaca College had 6,442 undergraduates and 6,949 total students.

Admissions statistics: Class of 2014

Number of applicants (freshmen): 13,191
Number of admitted students (freshmen): 9,096
Number enrolled fall 2010 (first-time, full-time freshmen): 1,617
Average SAT score: 1726
2012 – 2013 Undergraduate Cost of Attendance:  Tuition and Fees $37,000; Room $7,200;  Board $6,200; Optional Health and Accident Insurance $1,110

ADMISSIONS QUESTIONS

Ithaca College Director of Admission, Gerard Turbide, answered the following questions for us:

Applying

Q: What percentage of applicants does Ithaca College admit?

A: Typically we offer admission to two-thirds of our applicants.

Q: Does applying early decision/action improve a student’s chances for admission?

A: Ithaca College is a selective institution, and as a result, we cannot offer admission to all qualified students.  We also want to admit students who are excited about Ithaca College, will contribute positively to our community, and are willing to make that commitment early.  The accelerated time line allows us to admit all qualified candidates who apply through Early Decision, and our most interested applicants know much earlier.  It’s a win-win.

Starting fall 2012, Ithaca College will offer the option to apply by December 1 under a non-binding Early Action deadline to receive an admissions decision by February 1.

Q:  How important are extracurricular activities in admissions decisions?

A: Students who do well at Ithaca College are usually individuals who want to be actively engaged in their education.  A student’s participation in extracurricular activities is one indication of that quality.  Each year, more than 700 prospective students apply for Ithaca College’s Leadership Scholarship, and each candidate’s activities in their community are carefully considered for this competitive award.

Q: How important is taking advanced, accelerated, or honors courses?

A: In our selection process, we are very focused on the extent to which an applicant has challenged him- or herself academically.  We assess each applicant’s strength of curriculum in light of the offerings available at that high school.

Q: Which teachers should write a college recommendation?

A: Selecting recommenders is a personal decision.  I would encourage students to seek teachers who know them well, and can write in detail about their relative strengths in the classroom.

Q: Do you look for what is not said in a college recommendation?

A: I would not say that we speculate on omissions in letters of recommendation.  I would say that, in cases where there are inconsistencies in a student’s academic record, it is helpful when the guidance counselor addresses that issue.

Q: Is the quality of an applicant’s high school taken into consideration?

A: We take into account the context of the student’s learning environment.

Q: What is the relative importance of grades versus board scores?

A: Our research has shown that grades – specifically, a student’s grade-point average in academic course work – is a much better predictor of success at Ithaca College.

Q: There’s been controversy about using tests like the SAT and ACT in the college admissions process. Where does your school stand?

A: Starting fall 2012 applicants will  have the option of not submitting SAT or ACT scores. 

Interviewing

Q: Does your school offer interviews with college admissions counselors? If not, why?

A: Yes we do. We believe it’s important for any student considering Ithaca College to visit our campus. We offer individual appointments with counselors, small group information sessions, and open house programs in which our campus community happily greets our visitors to provide an inside look at Ithaca College.

Q: Should a student discuss or explain a poor grade or marking period(s)? If so, when?

A: If there is something significant that impacted a student’s academic performance (e.g., illness, injury, family hardships, etc.), the student can share that information within the application.

Essay Writing

Q: What qualities do you look for in a well-written college application essay?

A: We want to hear the student’s voice, and learn something about that student. This is a key opportunity for an applicant to create a distinct impression. Careful attention to grammar, proof reading, and spell checking are all important.

Q: Is there a type of college application essay you would recommend against?

A: I would recommend against statements that would cast doubt on the student’s ability to contribute positively to our campus community.  Of course, each student’s essay should be their own work.

Q: Can a college application essay make or break an admission?

A: In some cases, an essay can make the difference one way or the other.  A sincerely written essay that provides insight into a student’s character can help counterbalance an academic concern, especially when recommendations support that student’s potential to meet challenges head-on.

Q: Where do you stand on the 500 word limit on the Common Application’s personal statement? Can a student go over the Common Application’s 500 word limit?

A: I would advise students to start by writing a first draft without thinking about length.  Choose a topic you care about, and write with your own “voice”.  Once you have your ideas assembled, you can refine and edit.  For each applicant, I’m interested in reading a compelling statement that effectively conveys something about that studentI’ve never counted the words used.

Financial Aid

Q: How has the recession affected the admissions process and the availability of financial aid?

A: Every year, families express increased interest in financial aid, and most must weigh the cost of attendance as part of their decision-making.  Last year Ithaca College made available over $165 million in grants and loans. We view an Ithaca College education as an investment made in partnership with our students and their families.  And we believe that the rewards of that education will be well worth it. (editor’s note: Ithaca College lists tuition, fees, room and board at $45,944. The most recent stats show 1,497 out of 2,027 full-time freshmen were offered aid. The average financial aid package was $29,600.)

Finally…

Q: What part of the college admissions process is most misunderstood?

A: I think many people believe that standardized tests play a much larger role than they do.  They can be a helpful piece of information, but nothing tells us more than a student’s academic record reflecting their course work.

Q: How can people connect with your school and your students?

A: We have a well-developed presence on the web, including a specific social networking site for applicants.  The best way to connect with Ithaca College, our students, and our faculty, is to visit campus.  We offer several open house programs in the fall, tours and information sessions throughout the summer, and we have an open house for high school juniors on Saturday, April 30th.

Our social networking site for applicants is IC Peers — it’s part of our myIthaca portal. We encourage any student considering Ithaca College to register at my.ithaca.edu. There are interesting articles that can help with the college search process, and as you progress with your application to Ithaca College, you can keep track of your status, register for one of our open house programs, and meet other interested students online.

Q: Please add a question specific to your school.
Question:  Is it important to pick a major now?

A: Ithaca College offers over 100 degree programs in the humanities and sciences, business, communications, the health sciences, and music.  Our Exploratory Program is a great option if –like most students — you’re not yet sure what you want to study.  Whatever your plans are for the future, we most likely have the program of study that will prepare you for the challenges ahead.

To Contact Ithaca College:

http://www.ithaca.edu

Office of Admission
953 Danby Road
admission@ithaca.edu
(607) 274-3124 |  (800) 429-4274

other posts in this series:

Housatonic Community College
Quinnipiac University
Sacred Heart University
University of Bridgeport

University of Connecticut

related links:
Will More Prominent Colleges Abandon the SAT?

Sharon Epstein, FIrst Impressions College Consulting..Sharon Epstein is owner of First Impressions College Consulting
Need help? I work with students everywhere: in-person, over the phone, and by computer. Visit my website for more info.
Connect with Me:

follow Sharon Epstein on Twitterfollow Sharon Epstein on pinterest