Peter Van Buskirk recently presented the “College Admission Game” to over 300 students and parents at Ridgewood High School.
Peter is a renowned expert in the college admission process with over 30 years of experience. He is an acclaimed author and motivational speaker and excels at simplifying and demystifying what is often perceived as a complex and mysterious process — college admission. Peter spent more than 25 years in selective college admission including 12 as Dean of Admission at Franklin & Marshall College. He subsequently joined Peterson’s Guides for two years where he served as Vice President for College Planning Solutions. He has presented his creative programming to more than 2,000 audiences worldwide.
I met with Peter before the presentation to speak about different trends he is seeing as he speaks to audiences around the country before watching his presentation. Here are 10 takeaways from the evening.
Nationally, approximately 80% of students get into their first choice school. At RHS, last year 82% of students self-reported being admitted to one of their top three schools.
Rankings are made up by editors trying to sell clicks, magazines, and books. Be careful using rankings as a starting point to build your list. Sometimes students approach the college search process backwards by first looking at lists and rankings. First, there should be a self-reflection period where students think about what their strengths, interests, and goals are. We then can find schools that truly match student needs. That is how you find a true fit.
Find a college that values you. In my opinion, this is the key ingredient for student happiness and success in this process. It is human nature to chase things we do not have possession of. In the long run, it is better for you to wait for the people, places, and opportunities that chase you.
Strangers are not admitted to college. Get engaged early and often. Let them know who you are as a kid and what you can bring to their campus. Schools track demonstrated interest (Interest Index) and want to admit students who are likely to attend their school.
Academic credentials put you on the playing field in college admissions. Non-academic credentials push you over the finish line.
The SAT is a useful predictor of success for a student’s freshman year in college. After that “it’s worthless” for college admission counselors. Never take more than three times (point of diminishing return).
The supplemental essay is a student’s opportunity to show his/her synergy with the college. Oftentimes, these questions are put off to the last minute when they may be the most important piece of the application because you can give them your “why” you want to be a part of their school.
If a college admits you, what do they get? You need to tell them what you give them if they accept you through your story in the application process.
Tips on the college essay: Good writing takes months. Do not wait until the last minute. College admission counselors want to know that you can write. Do you take risks in your writing? Who are you inside? Tell me your story.
Hot Spots on the application that college admission counselors look for include Point of Origin (where you live), Academic Concentration/Major, Family Background (Legacy), Academic Honors/Extracurricular Activities, Personal Statement, and High School Transcript (most important item still).