Thursday, January 26, 2012

Decisions, Decisions...

We just sent our second round of acceptance letters out in the mail for our EAII applicants, which got me to thinking - each and every one of these accepted students (as well as the EAI applicants the Regular applicants who will receive their offers of admission in late March) has a very big decision ahead of them. They will be deciding where to spend the next four years of their life - from the ages of 18 -22!

So, here are the 5 things that I think every student making the decision about where they want to go to school should learn about each of their prospective colleges - they might not be the biggest, most common or seemingly important things, but they are definitely worth knowing.

1) Am I being accepted into a certain major or academic program?
At Saint Michael's we do not have different admission standards for different majors - in fact, most of our students are "Exploratory" majors for at least their freshman year. However, at some schools you are accepted into a certain program and might not have the same kind of flexibility with changing your major. It's better to know this going in than be surprised when you get to school!

2) What are the weekends like?
Here at St. Mike's, we are just as active on the weekends as we are during the week - maybe even more so! You should definitely ask your tour guide or admission counselor if students leave on the weekends or if they choose to stick around. SMC is the epitome of a residential campus, which was one of my favorite parts!

3) What is the process for choosing a roommate?
Living with a roommate can be one of the biggest adjustments that a student makes when transitioning to college - sharing space with someone who you've never met can be pretty anxiety provoking. However, at St. Mike's our residential life staff sends out a survey and tries to match you with someone who you have similar living habits with. However, not all roommate pairings are perfect, so changes can also be made if absolutely necessary. Learning what you are in for in this regard can help you put your mind at ease.

4) What type of person would love this school?
This is a really great question to ask anyone who you can as you make your decision on where to attend school - you can get some really great answers, plus you can see if you can see yourself meshing with the descriptions that these people give you. I think that the type of person who would love SMC is someone who is willing to new things, go out of their comfort zone, get involved with lots of activities, ask questions, be present and go through four years of life changing moments and experiences. Does that sound like you?

5) What percentage of students return after their first year?
This is a statistic called "student retention." Students leave schools for any number of different reasons - whether it's because they changed their mind on what they wanted to study, realized that they wanted to be in a different location or they realized that they couldn't make it work financially. It's an interesting statistic to learn - we have a 91% retention rate at SMC, which I think is great - it shows that our students make really well informed decisions and love it at SMC!

What things are you wondering about as you make your decision about where to attend college?

Thursday, January 12, 2012

College Admissions - a PSA for parents

First, I want to start with a disclaimer that I do not have children. Nor do I plan to have children in the foreseeable future. However, I have contact with parents of prospective students/applicants on a daily basis, so this blog post is written from the perspective of a college admission professional who interacts with A LOT of parents.

So, I give you the following small piece of advice specifically for parents of prospective students and college applicants!

Let your child do the talking.

I mean this in every possible situation - on a tour, on the phone, in an interview, at a college fair, everywhere. Your child won't learn how to interact with an admission counselor, tour guide, professor, secretary or any other person if you never give them the chance to try. I feel that there are very few reasons that a parent of a student should be calling our office - it should almost always be the student! The same goes for e-mail communication - if the student has a question, wants to set up an interview or needs to check on the status of their application, they need to be the one making the call or sending the e-mail.

I've heard every excuse in the book for this one - the most common one being "my student is busy and doesn't have time to call!" Unfortunately, this excuse doesn't hold water with me - I've had students call from their school guidance office during their free period, call before practice, even e-mail me to set up a phone call in the evening after they are finished with their commitments so that they can take care of whatever they need to. I'm willing to go the extra mile for any of our applicants if they are willing to go the extra mile for me.

I imagine that it must be difficult as a parent to watch your student struggle, feel uncomfortable, be stressed, or set themselves up for what you perceive to be a bad decision. But I believe that the only way your student will learn is to do all of those things - and since most students applying to college are legally allowed to gamble, purchase cigarettes and serve our country, I think that they must take this process into their own hands. They are the ones who will be on campus for 4 years, not you. They are the ones who will have to live with the consequences of choosing a school that isn't a good fit, or will have to settle on their safety school because they didn't get their documents in on time. I believe that it is all part of the process, and maybe it's a time for everyone, parents and students, to take a step forward in letting go and growing up.

Plus, here at St. Mike's, we put every communication that we've had with a student or their parents in their file and it all gets reviewed during the admission process. So it's up to you and your student - would you rather we see a mature, conscientious applicant who serves as their own advocate or 10 e-mails from mom? I know which is more impressive to me as I evaluate students for admission to a college where they will spend the next 4 years of their life being a mature, conscientious adult who serves as their own advocate.

What's your opinion?