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Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Getting College Search Advice

I'm using a comment left by "GFK" as the jumping off point for this post.

I found this blog through a search (after reading a New York Times oped about admissions essays and feeling hopeless about advising our child on this topic) and have spent the entire weekend reading it almost in its entirety. This is the most incredible college admissions resource we have encountered. Living in Fairfax Country, there is no shortage of advice about the admissions process and it is hard to separate truth from fiction.

I realize that this blog is specific to UVA and though much of the information is applicable to the process overall, I wonder if you might share some advice for those of us who are hearing admissions information from all kinds of "insiders" right now.
First of all, I'm thrilled that GFK is asking about this. When you first start getting information in the college search, you read, you ponder, you share. It all seems like great stuff. As the information pours in, you might get overwhelmed.

GFK is in an areas where the public (and most of the private) schools have excellent College and Career Centers. The Career Center Specialists and guidance counselors should be your first stop for general information about the college search. Those folks will also be able to share some tools for narrowing all the options down. They often have historical data about your school population and many different colleges and universities. If you know what a scattergram is, you know the one of the most popular resources out there. Of course, scattergrams don't tell you absolutes, but they can give you some basic information. 

We talk to counselors and career center specialists fairly regularly. Even the career center specialist I know who worked in admission for years will call or email to verify information. Things are always changing, so the policy or practice that was in place three years ago may have shifted. I tend to have a mental list of things to tell my counselor/career center friends when I visit them in the fall so they know about what's new or different at UVa that year.

If your counselors have huge case loads or feel like you aren't getting enough information about the schools that interest you from the resources available to you online at at your school, contact the admission offices with your questions. This seems like a no-brainer to some, but others seem to feel either nervous about calling us or have convinced themselves that we are suspicious folks who can't be consulted. Until I move into the reading season, my job is to make sure students have the information they need to decide if they should submit an application (more on this in a future post...I have a lot to say!).

You've probably encountered well meaning folks who want to help by sharing their observations of the admission process or experiences they've had helping past students through the process. There's a different between being an observer and being an "insider" (to use GFK's term). Again, remember that schools and practices evolve, so what someone observed about the process in the past (when their child applied, for example) may not be relevant today. Admission officers are happy to talk to you by phone, email, or via social media. Reach out to us if you'd like to get current information.