Tuesday, August 27, 2013

How to be Authentic in Three Easy Steps!

As I race around this month, meeting with students to help them craft their Common App essays and supplements, I have noticed that students seem to struggle with the same issue. Many feel they have to have a dramatic story or momentous experience to write about in order to write a good essay. Some of the new Common App prompts seem to provide the perfect framework in which to share a significant experience, but what is a student to do if he or she hasn't had that defining moment yet? What if the moment of realization that that student is no longer a child hasn't happened yet? What if there is no story central to his or her identity that is worthy of note?

The default prompt for kids without a compelling story to tell seems to be writing about a place where the writer is content. If a student chooses this prompt, he or she should remember that the place need not be geographical, e.g. a ski mountain or Tel Aviv, and an even better more personal and moving essay can be developed if a physical place isn't the place of contentedness. It can be an emotional "place", chilling with the family dog after a rough day, or spending time with an elderly relative, hearing stories about the old days, doing chores for them or sharing a meal.

Students should think outside the box when crafting the essay. It's the only opportunity an admissions officer will have to really get to know the applicant beyond the data elsewhere on the application. Seize the opportunity to do so. Be authentic and the essay will make sense.

Of course the most important consideration when preparing an essay for submission is to have someone else read it! Whether it is a paid essay expert, a trusted teacher or counselor, or even a parent or friend with an eye for grammar and usage, have someone read it through and mark it up with a red pen. It is hard to spot mistakes in your own work and there is no more awful feeling than realizing there is a huge typo in the middle of your essay AFTER you have pressed the submit button!

Friday, August 9, 2013

DIII and the Student Athlete

Many parents dream of athletic scholarships for little Susie, starting perhaps when she is four years old and dominating the soccer pitch. About 2% of high school athletes receive athletic scholarships and this includes partial scholarships as well as those that may only cover one year. Only DI and DII schools may award scholarships to athletes. DIII is another kettle of fish. Read on for some simple tips to keep in mind as your student considers playing at DIII.
  • While DIII schools do not award athletic scholarships, students who qualify can receive generous financial aid packages including grant or gift money that need not be paid back. Anecdotally, it is suspected that a desirable prospective DIII athlete who qualifies for aid may actually receive a package that includes more grant money and fewer loans than a non-athlete. 
  • There is no such thing as a commitment from a DIII coach- there are no guarantees in this division.  A DIII coach and an athlete have a handshake agreement at best. An email from a coach is not a commitment no matter how enthusiastic.  There is no Letter of Intent, no signing ceremony and nothing but good faith between a coach and athlete.  Every high school and independent counselor has a story to tell about the kid who had a "commitment" from a DIII coach, and was not admitted. 
  • Coaches at DIII have a certain number of slots for their team. They will reserve those slots for the most talented athletes. Other students who may be attractive applicants can be lobbied for or supported in admissions by a coach BUT another slightly more attractive applicant can appear out of the blue and a coach may throw his weight behind that student instead. 
  • It ain't over 'til it's over...Until a student has an acceptance in hand and an aid package, if applicable, that works for his family, that student should not consider him or herself admitted. Students should strive to have a back up plan- applications for other schools should be completed before the ED notification date. EDII is a good option for student athletes who find themselves in this situation.  
  • While almost all coaches are genuinely interested in helping students, and are well-intentioned, a handful are known to manipulate the system or worse, lead students to believe the deal is done when the opposite is true. Caveat Emptor.
  • NCAA has a set of rules and guidelines with which students are required to apply. Check those out here: DIII NCAA Guidelines
  • NESCAC, an athletic conference that includes many top ranked liberal arts colleges in the Northeast, has its own set of recruiting guidelines and rules. They should be reviewed for compliance and can be found here: NESCAC Prospective Student Guidelines