St. John’s College

Annapolis, MD and Santa Fe, NM

The home page of the St. John’s College website reads: 

“The following teachers will return to St. John’s College next year: Plato,
Newton, Galileo, Cervantes, Dante, Melville…”

The list of recognizable names continues on and fades into the background.

No, St. John’s doesn’t literally reincarnate history’s greatest minds, but its unique
“Great Books” program means that students spend all four years reading,
studying and discussing the most important books in Western tradition.

[Read more…]

5 New Year’s Resolutions for High School Kids

It’s that time of year when we make our New Year’s resolutions, and we’ve got a few recommendations for high school kids to help them enjoy the ride to college a little more.  So, here are our Collegewise “Top Five New Year’s Resolutions” that might not be so obvious, but will definitely help you get accepted to college. 

  1. Set a goal to actively participate in at least one class this semester. 

Colleges don’t just care about the grades you get; they especially appreciate students who actively participate in class.  So raise your hand.  Answer questions.  Show the teacher you’re interested and engaged.  Doing so will go along way towards showing the colleges you can succeed in their classrooms.

  1. Get more involved in a current activity.

Before you add more activities to your plate, ask yourself if you would enjoy being even more involved with something you already do.  Can you take a leadership position, take on a project, or make an impact in some way?  Remember, a long list of activities isn’t as impressive to colleges as is a significant commitment to the things you really enjoy. 


  1. Find a way to pursue a subject you like.

Colleges are always impressed by a sincere interest in learning.  So ask yourself what you really want to learn about, and then find a way to do it.  Do an extra project.  Take an extra class or attend a summer program.  The subject could be anything from calculus to civil war history to sports medicine.  What’s important is to show colleges that you do have intellectual interests and you don’t mind going the extra mile pursuing them.


  1. Be yourself.

It’s not necessary to mold yourself into something you’re not just to please the colleges.  For example, a lot of students worry that their lack of athletic talent will hurt them in college admissions.  It won’t.  If you don’t like sports, but you love math, embrace your love of numbers, join the math club and become its fearless leader.  Colleges appreciate individuality a lot more than they do efforts to conform into something you’re not.

  1. Spend more time looking for the right colleges.

A lot of students talk about wanting to get into the “best” schools.  But don’t forget to look for the right schools–the ones where you will be happy and successful for four years.  This year, resolve to do some college soul-searching to determine what you really hope or expect to gain from your college experience.  Investigate a variety of schools and try to find the right match.  Doing so will make your life easier, your high school years more productive, and your college applications more successful.

Holiday Party

We recently celebrated the completion of our senior season with our annual holiday party.  Collegewise social gatherings aren’t usually of interest to the outside world, but I was struck by two things.

Cwgang_2 1.  We really are a handsome company when the men clean ourselves up.

2.  Lots of colleges (not just the brand name schools) graduate smart, dedicated, passionate, interesting, likeable people who love their jobs.


Top left to right: UC Irvine, Cal State Long Beach, UC Irvine, Colgate, Columbia, UC Irvine and Northwestern.  Bottom left to right:  University of Chicago and Case Western.

Have a wonderful holiday…

What Do Those Essay Prompts Really Mean?

College essay prompts often reflect the personality of the school and its students.  That’s why, if a certain essay topic inspires you to write a 10-page thesis, well, you might have found your perfect match.  Below are five actual essay questions from this year’s applications, along with some insight into how these questions reflect the schools and their students.  The names of the colleges who posed the questions have been withheld..

Essay topic #1
“You have just completed your 300-page autobiography. Please submit page 217.”

Did you hatch a 10 year plan on your 10th birthday that detailed your academic rise, summer internships, and college plans? Then this school might just fit the bill for you. The college that poses this essay question seeks out candidates who have definite plans for the future. These are highly motivated students who want to use this university’s resources to attain those goals that they probably set at age ten.

[Read more…]

Texas Christian University

Fort Worth, TXTcu

Two words: Horned Frogs.

There are some colleges where the mascot is just the poor
sap in a smelly suit. But for others, the mascot is a central part of the
school’s identity. Take the TCU (Texas Christian University) "Horned
Frog," for example.

From the stadium chants of "Go Horned Frogs!" to the "Frog
Family Homecoming" for alumni in October, TCU’s Horned Frog is a part of
their campus culture. Nowhere is this more apparent than at home football
games, a staple of TCU’s student spirit. In fact, all TCU students recently
received a letter from second-year Chancellor Victor J. Boschini welcoming them
back to school and inviting them to the Horned Frogs’ nationally televised
opening home football game against Northwestern. It probably wasn’t hard to
garner support. The Frogs were coming off an 11-win season and a top 25
post-season ranking in 2003.

He signed off his letter with the following: "So be prepared to study like
your future depends on it (it does!), and play safely – for the same reason.
Indeed, that’s what Horned Frogs do!"

[Read more…]

Start Out on The Right Foot…

Rightfoot_2All the admissions officers we’ve met are good people who would much rather admit than deny kids. But during the pressures of admissions season, some applicants’ actions can drive the admissions folks crazy. Here are five tips to make sure you don’t inadvertently start out on the wrong foot.

1.  Follow directions.
You can avoid most common mistakes in college applications by reading and following the directions.  For example, if a college asks you to list your activities in the space provided, and you send them a resume instead, you just showed them that you couldn’t follow a pretty simple direction.  So read the directions and do exactly as they instruct you to do. No matter how much you think you might be helping your case by doing things your own way, you’re always better served following directions.

2.  Make sure you read the admissions websites carefully.
When is the application deadline?  How many letters of recommendation are required?  When is the last date you can take the SAT?  You can find answers to these and many other common questions from applicants on the admissions websites.

[Read more…]

Just Being Yourself Can Help You Get Into College

Pink_aber_shirt I’m not Arun Ponnusamy, the former Caltech and University of Chicago Assistant Director of Admissions and the usual contributor to this “Inside the Admissions Office” column. I’ve never even worked in an admissions office. But I think I can teach you a little something about college admissions by sharing some things Arun might not tell you.

Arun wears a lot of pink. I don’t know many men who can wear pink and really pull it off, but I swear Arun can do it. He’s actually got what some people might call a pretty well developed fashion sense, which is interesting considering he was raised in rural Ohio. Think small town. Think farms. Think of a situation where his dad wasn’t a surgeon in his small town. His father was the surgeon in his small town. To watch Arun coolly navigate the hippest areas of Los Angeles, all decked out in his silky pink shirts, hip-hop music playing in his grey Scion, you’d never know that instead of a paper route or a job in retail, his part time job during high school summers was shoveling cow poop.

[Read more…]

Don’t Fall For These Admissions Myths

When it comes to college admissions, knowledge is power. So make sure you don’t
fall for these five popular myths.

1. Connections get you in

That letter of recommendation from the alumnus who is also your father’s
business partner isn’t likely to get you in. And neither is the fact that your
neighbor knows someone on the admissions staff.

Admissions officers are looking for motivated students who can add to their
campus communities, not the ones who know the “right people.” So, unless the
brand new research center at your dream school has your family’s name on it
(which would help), don’t count on your connections to get you in.

[Read more…]

Antioch College

Antioch_2Yellow Springs, OH

Looks aren’t everything.

Maybe you don’t fit the mold in high school. You don’t look like the other
kids. You don’t dress like they dress. You don’t think like they think. You
don’t know where the cool party is and you don’t care. You might even be more
intelligent than your grades makes you look. You’re a thinker, a dreamer, an
idealist. You can’t wait to escape high school and surround yourself with a
bunch of other bright, interesting, wonderfully weird students who didn’t fit
the mold in high school either and who think you look just fine.

Have we got the college for you…

[Read more…]


We spend our days at NACAC assessing whether each experience is blogworthy and abiding by the guiding principle that not everything we do here makes for interesting reading.  Rather, we’ll try to share the conversations, sessions and experiences that are making our stay at NACAC so Priceofadmissionbig_4 memorable.  With that guiding principle, here was NACAC, day two.

This book has been getting a lot of press lately, so you can imagine how much it’s being talked about in the company of NACAC.  Fortunately (or sadly, depending upon how college-geeky this really makes us), Kevin and Arun each read the book during their respective flights to attend NACAC, so they’ve been able to weigh in with their own thoughts.  At one point yesterday, Ted O’Neil from the University of Chicago asked Kevin, "So, you read The Price of Admission?  What did you think of it?"  Kevin was an English major in college and thus enjoyed years of training in criticial analysis and discussion of classic literature.  But for Kevin, this was much, much cooler than being asked his thoughts about Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury (a book Kevin read in college, but never managed, even for one second, to understand).   

Kevin’s take on The Price of Admission, by the way, is that the book is somewhat predicated on the assumption that a kid who is "left out" of a spot in the nation’s most selective colleges is somehow at a life disadvantage.  You don’t have to spend much time around Collegewise to pick up that we don’t believe you have to go to a school on the US News list to be happy and successful.  Still, it’s not a simple issue, and we’ve enjoyed being a part of the discussions here with fellow counselors and admissions officers.   

[Read more…]