What Would You Ask a College Admission Officer?

I’m going to be attending the annual conference of the Western Association for College Admission Counseling beginning Tuesday afternoon on the campus of Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles.  WACAC is a membership organization for high school counselors, college counselors and college admission officers, who work in Nevada and California.

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Because I expect to be talking to college admission folks at this conference, I am eager to hear from you.  What I’d like is for you to send me a question or questions that you’d love for me to pose to admission officers that I meet. Don’t be shy.  Send me your queries and I’ll do the asking.
To motivate you to send in questions, I’ll be giving electronic copies of my workbook, Shrinking the Cost of College, to up to five people who send in great questions.  FYI, the electronic version of my workbook normally sells for $14.95 on my website and it’s packed with lots of great ideas to make college more affordable.
I hope to hear from you!
Lynn O’Shaughnessy is the author of The College Solution, an Amazon bestseller and a workbook, Shrinking the Cost of College: 152 Ways to Cut the Cost of a Bachelor’s Degree. Follow her on Twitter.

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  1. Many schools are emphasizing “pre-professional” training today, from engineering to business programs. Then why place a growing emphasis on hearing a “unique voice” in the essay portion of the application? Isn’t the future ability to crank out the work better reflected in GPA and test scores?

  2. Homeschooling has been our educational choice. When my son completed various applications, sections were often dedicated to “leadership and offices held”. He had to leave these sections blank because most of what he has done has not involved clubs where officers were elected. His high school activities focused on leadership of activities he organized himself, educational programs he participated in, or contests he was a part of.
    Question #1: What would persuade an admissions officer to chose my son over another candidate who had several traditional leadership roles?
    Homeschooling is often not validated because outsiders think that mom gives the child all “A’s” . Well, my son can tell you otherwise. Various portions of our curriculum provided objective methods to evaluate his work. And it was not always an “A”. He also took classes at a local Community College, providing that outside validation that he was a stellar student.
    Question #2: Some colleges want homeschooled students to go through exra hoops: provide extra SAT II scores, etc. Is this “legal”? By what means do they fairly evaluate homeschooled students against traditonally schooled students?
    Homeschoolers differ in their approach to teaching. I have been told that colleges (all??) have the ability to know what the high school curriculum is at each school in the county. (True??) Because I did so much research on the college application process, I prepared a book detailing our high school curriculum. It included his research work, field trips, course descriptions, and significant awards.
    Question #3: How would colleges evaluate a homeschooler’s high school program? Do they require them to submit these details? Only one of the colleges requested this. (That is the one he is going to.) The other colleges did not ask for it. One college even told us it really was not necessary, but we could send it.
    Questions #4: When it comes to financial aid, how do they determine WHO gets a full ride, partial full ride, or no ride at all? Is there a mathematical formula with grades, test scores, etc.?
    I have one heading off to college this fall, and two more students at home.
    Question #5: If they chose to attend the same school as he has chosen, are there any rules for favoring a sibling for admissions when given two equally qualified candidates?
    Question #6: Both of my high schoolers posed this question: ‘Can you ask for a full ride if that is the only means by which you would be able to attend the university?’
    Thanks Lynn. We were first introduced to you on College Week Live. You are now our main home page. My 10th grader asks each day, “What is on College Solution Blog today?” I printed the article on tips about getting a job right out of college for both of them. Thank you again.

    1. Hi Audrey,
      Great questions. And I think that’s wonderful that your 10th grader is interested in my blog! Hang tight for the answers.
      Lynn O’Shaughnessy

  3. How important is it for students to take AP classes and how many should they take? It seems as if you talk too many you don’t have time for a lot of extra-curriculars but a lot of schools look for that too.

  4. I read in GRE book by Princeton Review, that the GRE test does not show how smart you are or how well you would do in graduate school, it shows how good you are at taking the GRE test. Given this information why do so many graduate schools require it? Is the purpose of the SAT or GRE just to weed people out given that they don’t really accurately determine who will succeed or who wouldn’t?

    1. Good question. I’m not an expert on grad schools and the GRE, but I will try to find an answer for you.

  5. As an active-duty military family that has relocated every 2 years for the past 15 years, I’m concerned that my 2 teens will be at a disadvantage when it comes to demonstrating dedication to extracuricular pursuits and leadership in those activities, both of which seem to be highly desireable on college applications. Every time we move, they have to start over, establishing their roles in various groups. After all, it’s tough to become captain of a team or president of a club or editor of a publication when you’re only involved for a year or two. This lifestyle also makes it hard to establish relationships with potential recommendation-writers. What advice do admissions officers have for military kids to address these issues on applications?

    1. Thanks Theresa — I’ve never written about the challenges facing military families. I will ask!
      Lynn O’Shaughnessy

  6. Not all kids are natural leaders. Some are downright shy. How do you sort out qualities of kids that are not naturally outgoing but may have great skills that are well hidden?

    1. Patty — Thanks for the great suggestion. I’ve always thought it odd that colleges emphasize that they want leaders when most people don’t fall into that category.
      Lynn O’Shaughnessy

  7. Lynn, thanks for this opportunity! I’d like answers to the following:
    1. If Level of Interest is “considered” in admissions decisions, what counts and how is it tracked? Would parent inquiry count (on a student’s behalf)?
    2. If a student does not apply for financial aid, is he/she more or less likely to get a merit scholarship (if offered)?
    3. If a student files an application the night before the deadline, is he at a disadvantage compared to someone who applied 2 months earlier?

  8. What do Admission Officers feel are the three most important criteria points for a student and their family to look at to decide if it is a school the student should apply to?