The learning opportunity

I always appreciate when a press entity or industry publication features an article with a collection of advice from admissions officers or even the directors of those offices. I’ve written many times before about the importance of seeking and taking college admissions advice from the right sources. And admissions officers share the top of that desirability list with a student’s high school counselor.

But editing and space considerations can render some of that advice open to misinterpretation. Tidbits like “Clearly express your interest in the college” is fundamentally good advice that’s often flawed in practice. For example, some families will take that to mean they should spend an exorbitant amount of money to visit all of their colleges, but no admissions officer I’ve ever met would recommend a family end up in college-related travel debt at all, much less before the student has even applied.

Not surprisingly for regularly readers, Brennen Barnard’s latest Forbes piece, “Admission Deans Share Tips For College Applications,” reads like an article that was curated by an expert of Barnard’s caliber. It’s full of clear, sound, and easy-to-follow guidance that happens to be arriving at the perfect time.

But readers still need to use the advice responsibly, as some applicants will allow confirmation bias to get in the way of the intended advice. For example, if a family is determined to send unsolicited extra letters of recommendation or press clippings or copies of awards, they can find a way to substantiate that inclination with the article’s advice to “Go the extra mile.” And inclinations like that will work against you in this process.

Please read the examples that accompany advice like that. Don’t ignore the fact that an equally knowledgeable admissions officer in the article also offers the advice, “Don’t be redundant,” which is exactly what unsolicited materials often lead you to be. When you take in the reasoning and the examples of how and why to employ the advice, it’s very clear what’s being recommended and what’s being discouraged. But you’ll need to read closely and openly enough to take in the advice as they intend it to be taken, not as you wish it could be interpreted.

If you appreciate Barnard’s articles as much as I do, you might be interested in his forthcoming book, authored with former Georgia Tech Director of Admissions Rick Clark, The Truth about College Admission: A Family Guide to Getting In and Staying Together, scheduled to be released September 19, 2019.

It can be difficult to slog through the clutter of admissions advice, especially when dished out unsolicited from sources who lack the expertise. But when it arrives from experts who have no agenda other than to help families make sound, reasonable college planning decisions, take them up on the learning opportunity.