College Corner Q & A


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Q: “Now that September is here where should my child be in terms of submitting their college applications?” -Croton Mom

 A: Thanks for that great question…..

As the fall rolls around many students begin submitting their college applications. While thousands of colleges and universities will accept applications throughout the entire senior year, it’s best to start early and not wait to the last minute.

There’s often a lot of stress and anxiety that surrounds this process, much of which can be avoided by being proactive and doing your research in advance.

This means narrowing down the list of colleges that you expect to apply to. There are many resources available to help you narrow down your list starting with your school counselor, Naviance, College Board, friends, family and teachers.

I’m often asked what is the appropriate number of schools to apply to. While there is no general rule, most students find that between five and twelve colleges is the right number for them.

Start by looking at the college’s first year profile. You can often find the middle 50% range of high school grades and standardized test scores for the most recently enrolled first-year class by simply contacting the college admissions office.

To give yourself the greatest opportunity to have multiple offers of admission come this spring, apply to a couple of schools where you are on the higher end of their profile, a couple of schools where you are in the middle, and a couple of schools where you are on the lower end.

Remember that when we review college applications, we look at much more than just your grades and where you fall within that range.

Students who are often the most disappointed, are those who tend to apply to a majority of schools where they are on the lower end of the first year profile.

Once you have narrowed down that list to a manageable number, begin to research each college’s application requirements. Be very careful and do your homework because some schools will have very specific requirements. For example, some colleges will ask that you answer their specific essay questions, some will permit you to submit a personal essay, and some will require both.

If applying to art programs, schools may ask for you to submit a very specific type of portfolio, while others may let you submit your definition of a portfolio.

Again, if you do your research now you will have enough time to prepare and complete your college applications on-time.

If a college asks for two or three specific letters of recommendation, now is the time to begin to talk with your teachers and people who will be writing on your behalf. This will give the recommenders an opportunity to put together a letter for you and not feel rushed themselves.

As you apply to your colleges and questions arise, feel free to contact the college admissions office directly. It is best not to rely on hearsay or what may have been required in previous years as things can change every year based upon the needs of the admissions office and in a larger context, the college or university.

Who should be contacting the college admissions office? While we love to hear from parents, it is always impressive when the college applicant contacts us directly. Remember, the college application process provides students an opportunity for growth. It also provides parents an opportunity to hold back and give their children a chance to take ownership over where they will be spending the next 4 to 5 years of their lives.

One other important piece to be discussed at this time is how much money is available to help pay for college. This discussion should take place between the parents and the children. If there are other restrictions the parents feel strongly about, now is the time to have those discussions. For example, if a parent does not want their child to go to college across the country, now is the time to have that discussion. Or if there is a limited amount of money available to help pay for college, that discussion should take place immediately.

Once your child has been admitted to a specific college, it is much harder to tell her/him they cannot attend.

In closing, while parents should be a involved, it is critically important that the child drive the college application process

Mitchell Lipton

College Corner presented by Mitchell Lipton, Mitchell Lipton serves as Dean of Admissions and Records and Registrar at Cooper Union. Mitchell actively presents at local and national conferences and consults on a number of educational endeavors. He holds an elected position with the College Board and serves on the Advisory Board of Private Colleges and Universities. Mitchell served as Vice President of the New York State Association for College Admissions Counseling, Steering Committee member for The New York State Legislative Forum, and member of the National Association for College Admissions Counseling New York City College Fair Committee. He lives in Cortlandt Manor with his wife and two children. Mitchell may be reached at [email protected]

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