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What Admissions Officers Tell Their Own Kids

Updated: Sep 21, 2019

The New York Times asked admissions officers from nine schools for the advice they give their own children on finding the school that’s right for them. Here is some of their pearly wisdom:


“Knowing who you are provides a protective armor in a process that can be overwhelming. Not only are you inundated with communication from the colleges, everyone you know has an opinion of what is a good college and what is not, and they feel very free to express it. It’s empowering for a teen to be able to say, ‘I’m the kind of person who…’ ” – Diane Anci, Kenyon College.


“Getting those applications in early is the best way to reduce stress senior year. I want them to do well in their academic courses and extracurricular activities and to enjoy that last year of high school. Why spend it struggling with applications? … Think about it strategically: there are thousands of applications and essays to get through. If you get yours in early, the reader may be more relaxed and in a better mood at that point in the process.” – Clark Brigger, Penn State University.


“When my son was applying to schools, I never read his essay. Parents can sometimes do more harm than good with the essay. My advice to students is to first show your essay to a friend and ask, ‘Can you hear my voice in this? Could you pick my essay from a stack of 200?’ The essay doesn’t have to be about something life-changing or confessional. Smaller topics, written well, almost always work best.” – Stephen Farmer, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.


“What I tell students, and my own kids, is that you don’t have to take every advanced class. My high school daughter, for example, is taking advanced math and science courses but chose not to take advanced English and history. You should challenge yourself. For some students this might mean taking the most advanced classes, but it also might mean taking the most advanced classes appropriate for that student, and not spreading themselves too thin.” – Stuart Schmill, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.


“I’m not looking for students to have done any particular activity in the summer; but instead, I’m looking to see how students grew from whatever they undertook. I do see students who are doing magnificent research and that is a great thing. And I see students, like my daughter, who are working as a lifeguard at the pool all summer, and they are both learning from those experiences.” – Laura Simmons, Georgia Institute of Technology


“As my son prepares his college list, I’m going to hand him a spreadsheet. Across the top will be the schools, and down the side will be the list of things he feels are most important to him in a college. When he visits these schools and does his research, he’ll fill in the spreadsheet, and it will be a nice road map for him. At some point, once you visit two or three schools in a day or five schools a week, they begin to blend, and you definitely want some bread crumbs to remind you of where you’ve been.” – Gil Villanueva, University of Richmond.

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