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Getting into College: Best tips from guidance counselors

Try to think from the college’s perspective.

The college admissions office is there to serve the interests of the institution. So while some of the college’s admissions decisions may seem random, remember that they always make sense within the context of the college, Trenchard said.

“People are always looking to the college admissions process as some sort of validation of their own or their student’s achievement,” Trenchard said. “They think it should be some sort of meritocratic process. But it simply isn’t.

It’s not a college’s charge or responsibility. They may be non-profit, but they are also corporations. They are entities that need to deal with self-perpetuation first and foremost.

“When you realize that and approach the process knowing that and not assigning that admission decision as a stamp of validation, you don’t feel as personally disappointed,” he said.

Give yourself time to write and revise your essay.

Students shouldn’t be afraid to show their sense of humor and shouldn’t write about what they think the admissions person wants to hear.

“This is students’ opportunity to give a personal glimpse of themselves. They should give themselves enough time to write a thoughtful essay and allow themselves time for reflection,” Gorman said.

The summer between junior and senior year is a good time to write, revise and polish the essay without the pressure of classes and after-school activities, she said.

Own up to your mistakes.

If you have made a mistake during high school, such as a sudden drop in grades, a suspension or an arrest, admit it and tell the admissions staff what you have learned from the experience, Gorman said.

Gorman tells the story of a high school senior whose grades plummeted during his junior year. He had been overweight but went on a diet and slimmed down during the summer between his sophomore and junior years.

When he returned to school in the fall, he went out for the hockey team and made it. Now suddenly the boy who couldn’t get a date as a sophomore was swimming in female attention. His grades dropped as his social life soared – until senior year when he buckled down again to his studies.

The student wrote about the experience in his college essay. He began the essay with, “The fattest part of me is my head.”

Stay on top of deadlines.

With more students applying for admission through early decision, early action, rolling admission or some sort of hybrid in the fall, it is

imperative to keep track of deadlines. Last fall, for instance, more than half the senior class at both Avon and Glastonbury high schools applied by Nov. 1 through some form of early decision or early action.

Try to enjoy the process.

Rather than get caught up in the steeplechase for the best school, try to step back and enjoy the self-discovery process that goes on as the student tries to define himself and find the right college.

Gorman likes to tell the story of a New York City father who called her a few years ago about getting his son into the Dalton School, a prestigious prep school in New York. “I want him on the ‘ivy’ track,” the father said. Gorman asked him how old his son was. “He’s two,” the father said. “Let him have a happy childhood and call me back when he’s 16,” Gorman replied.

Remember that you have a choice.

Though it may not seem like it, the bottom line is that students have a lot of choice in the selection process.

“The reality is that students choose the colleges to which they apply and then choose the college to which they will matriculate,” Trenchard said. “All of the decisions in the process are not being made by the colleges – far from it.”

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