Written by Abby Power
I attended my first Independent Educational Consultants Association (IECA) conference in Boston earlier this month. As I listened to the various speakers and presenters talk about college admissions trends, one theme continued to come up: fit. And fit is a two-way street: the college has to fit the student, but colleges also want to see students who align with their overall mission and student body. Below are some key takeaways from admissions professionals on how they determine your fit with their college.
The personal statement matters. Sid Dalby from Smith college describes the application essay as an “interview on paper.” She explained that when she reads a student’s essays she tries to picture the applicant on campus. If she can’t then she knows the fit is off. A good idea, she suggested, is to write a personal story you might tell at a family get-together with people who range in age.
School specific supplemental essays may matter more. Maurice Harris looks to Syracuse’s Why Syracuse essay even more than the main personal statement because he can tell if a student has a personal connection to the school and has thought about how he/she will contribute. Syracuse likes students who “demonstrate grit, leadership, entrepreneurship and achievement” because those qualities fit well within the Syracuse community. Maurice specifically looks for these qualities in applicant essays. He also suggested that applicants investigate the specific school at Syracuse to which they plan to apply and understand how they fit into that community.
Contributing a unique angle matters the most for the most selective colleges. The Dean of Admissions at Harvard, Bill Fitzsimmons, identified that most kids who apply to Harvard possess the academic qualifications. But Harvard wants students with that something special that will contribute to the overall experience for the Harvard community. And given just how special Harvard is to begin with, the fit and ability to enhance the student and faculty community is critical for acceptance.
You are more than your test scores. Test optional schools such as Wheaton and Brandeis, look to other factors to determine fit. Rebecca Simons from Brandeis said, “since we don’t require tests, we prioritize achievement in school and extracurricular activities much higher when reviewing applications. We want students who will contribute to the academic and social life on campus.”