Tag Archives: Application Advice

Promoting Failure

The inevitable, glorious deluge of applications is upon us! Reading between 6 to 8 hours a day of applications three to four days a week is a brand new experience for me, and intense in a rewarding sort of way even for the most seasoned admission officers. You can correctly assume that it’s hard to find the motivation to read much else–I certainly don’t have any plans to finally start War and Peace anytime soon–but we officers are mustering up enough energy to read, of course, college admission related news articles.

One of my favorites that was sent around the office this week was this article entitled “Want to get in to College? Learn to Fail,” by Angel B. Pérez , the Dean of Admission and Financial Aid at Pitzer, on the importance of failure as it relates to teenagers’ growth in all areas of life and the college application process. Our entire staff loved it, probably because of its relevance to our own lives right now as we comb through hundreds of Common Application resumes and essays trying to decipher who belongs at Whitman next year. The gist is the importance of failure to development and that admission officers actually often rejoice when they find acknowledged and discussed imperfections in applications. It’s a great, quick read; go check it out, especially all of you who will be writing admission essays and interviewing with your dream colleges in the near future.

Opportunity for Application Advice & Admission Update

As high schools and colleges across the country release students for winter break, it truly becomes crunch time for finishing college applications (remember, the postmark deadline is January 1 for Early Decision II and January 15 for Regular).  Next week, in an effort to help seniors complete the strongest application possible while minimizing stress, The Choice, the New York Times blog on admission and financial aid in higher education, is hosting a live Facebook chat with three expert college counselors from across the country. A different counselor will take questions and offer advice Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday evenings.  Find out the details here.

Early Decision letters will be mailed next Monday morning, and students may view their status online at midnight Monday night. Thanks again for being such fantastic applicants! We are excited to welcome the first members of what promises to be another absolutely spectacular class of Whitties!

A few words on the Supplement

Isn’t the Common Application great?  All those schools you can apply to in one shot, it makes the college application process so much less daunting.  While this is true (to an extent) many of you are thinking, or maybe yelling out loud, “What about all those supplements?!?”  Aghh, the bitter sweetness of only needing to type your counselor’s e-mail address, Freshman extracurricular activities and expected spring schedule once.

Supplements are personal, they ask probing questions and they require thought and time.  Maybe right now in the middle of December you don’t feel like you have much of either to spare.  I encourage you to dig deep.  These questions are asked for a reason and they are important.  Trust me, as much as you do not want to write a meaningless essay, my colleagues and I do not want to read them.  Yet, year after year we keep asking the questions, because they are important.  We want to know these things about you, in the case of Whitman: how you perceive diversity, why you are interested in our community of 1500 students in Walla Walla, and lastly how you think and express your thoughts.

For some clues on why these questions are important to us take a look at our website, Google these topics, page through that Whitman Admission handout one more time with “different eyes”, ask us some questions of your own.  See what we have to say, maybe you will learn something, you may get intrigued and excited, you may be struck by inspiration for your supplemental essays.  We want to see if and why these topics are important to you too.  Be deliberate, be concise, and give us a view into you and your motivations.  There is no “right” answer!  So stop taking the safe route and writing on what you think it is.

The Common Application has 456 member institutions; at the heart of each is a unique school and community.  This is what the supplements try to get at.  This is why we ask these pesky questions.  In your answers we hope to honestly find a little of Whitman and what we value.  Good luck Class of 2016, we look forward to reading your applications!

Applying Early Decision & Financial Aid

Now that the calendar has turned to November, many seniors are working furiously on their college applications in preparation for applying “early” to one or more institutions. While Whitman does not have an Early Action (non-binding) program, we do offer two Early Decision (binding) application programs for students who consider Whitman to be their top choice. I frequently hear a student or parent tell me that Whitman is their top choice, but they’re nervous about applying Early Decision because of concern about financial aid. While this is certainly a real and valid concern for many families, let me help clarify a few points of confusion about ED and financial aid.

1) Each year, we admit and enroll a number of students who demonstrate financial need through our Early Decision program.
2) An admitted student to Whitman through Early Decision will receive the same need-based financial aid award as he/she would in Regular Decision months later.
3) While applying Early Decision is a binding agreement between the student, parents, counselor and Whitman College, if the student and his/her parents do not feel their financial aid award will afford them the opportunity to attend Whitman, we will release them from the binding agreement.

Essentially, here’s how I explain the pros/cons of Early Decision to a family concerned about financial aid: families who are considering Early Decision (or ED), but know that finances will be a critical factor in their decision of where to attend can still apply ED. Your family simply needs to assess very frankly what their situation and priorities are before deciding whether to apply Regular or Early Decision. If Whitman is your first-choice school and your family is willing and able to determine if it can afford Whitman without comparing ours to other financial aid packages, then Early Decision is a very viable option. If, however, your family knows that they will want to compare need-based and merit-based financial aid awards from multiple institutions, and decide thereafter how much they can afford based on your preferences as a student – then the path for your family might be Regular Decision.

The key is that your financial aid award ought to be the same, whether you apply Regular or Early Decision. The question for your family is how important it will be to compare costs from one institution to another. If you as a family are comfortable saying ‘yes’ or ‘no’ solely on the basis of whether or not you can afford Whitman with the financial aid award in front of you, Early Decision allows certainty much earlier in the year at the school you are most excited about. If you have further questions or concerns about Early Decision, I encourage you to contact me or any of my colleagues in the admission office. I hope to see many of your applications in the coming weeks.