The Hazards of Being a Stealth Applicant

If you plan to apply to college as a stealth applicant listen up.
Stealth applicants are teenagers who never contact a college before sending in their application. Stealth college applications used to be rare.  Most teenagers contacted colleges through traditional means such as requesting materials, talking to admission counselors at college fairs and visiting schools.
Today, however, teenagers can learn a tremendous amount about a college just by sitting at their computer.

Why You Shouldn’t Be a Stealth Applicant

Despite technological advances, colleges and university still want to hear from students directly. According to the 2009 survey of colleges conducted by the National Association for College Admission Counseling, 22% of schools said hearing directly from students during the admission process was of considerable importance. In higher-ed lingo that’s called demonstrated interest.
Would-be stealth applicants should also be aware of a Chronicle of Higher Education survey of 461 seniors admission officers conducted in 2011 that revealed that over a third of these administrators said that the likelihood of a student attending their institution affects the school’s admission decision.

Why the Pesky Questions?

I bring up this phenomenon because of a conversation that I had with David Anderson, senior associate director of admission at Kalamazoo College, a wonderful liberal arts college in Michigan. Teenagers who plan to be stealth candidates at a selective private school should pay closer attention to the answers they supply in the Common Application.
Anderson said that Kalamazoo doesn’t penalize a student for being a stealth applicant, but it does want to know if the school represents a good fit. Consequently the admission officers pay close attention to responses to the following two questions to determine a teenager’s level of interest:

  • Tell us why you are interested in Kalamazoo?
  • What interests do you want to pursue in college?

Kalamazoo examines the student’s responses versus what the liberal arts college offers. For instance, Anderson says, if a student says she wants to participate in track & field and a marching band at college, it’s more likely that the applicant would end up at the University of Michigan (one of Kalamazoo’s top rivals) than at Kalamazoo, which doesn’t offer either activity.
I am sure Kalamazoo’s handling of stealth college applications doesn’t differ much from other private colleges. So if you’re a stealth candidate, be careful how you answer those interest questions on your college applications.
Lynn O’Shaughnessy is the author of The College Solution, an Amazon bestseller,  and a financial aid workbook, Shrinking the Cost of College: Great Ways to Cut the Price of a Bachelor’s Degree.

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