Jul 11, 2009

Insider's Guide to Admissions

If you’re in the market for straightforward college admissions advice designed to de-tangle thornier elements of the application process, let me point you in the direction of a video produced by Vanderbilt University entitled, “Getting Into College: An Insider’s Guide.” Recorded in Vanderbilt’s gorgeous new student center, the 23-minute interview with Dean Richard Christiansen comes across as more of a therapy session for stressed out high school students and their parents than a lecture on how to get into college. Dean Christiansen doesn’t use the conversation as a forum for promoting the school he represents. He simply provides sound advice based on well over 20 years in the college admissions business.

Using a Q and A format, the video is broken into a series of short clips. Questions cover everything from extracurricular activities and academics to essay writing and recommendations. Looking directly into the camera, Dean Christiansen warns parents against making the application process “public discourse” thereby setting the stage for failure or a trip to what the community may unfairly regard as the “admissions cheap seats." He advises high school students to “seize the environment” they are in, taking on the challenge of balance and risk in course selection. At the heart of the process, colleges are in the business of “building communities,” and admissions professionals search for the right “fit” from among the thousands of applications they receive. Dean Christiansen recommends making the best possible case for admission by keeping to an “authentic voice” in everything that is submitted. For sanity’s sake, he strongly suggests “disassociating” from the process—there’s nothing personal here.

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