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April 26, 2007

High school seniors hope to find perfect college match

http://www.jewishjournal.com/education/article/high_school_seniors_hope_to_find_perfect_college_match_20070427

April is a big month for high school seniors. Colleges have made their admissions decisions, and some very happy students now have the enviable problem of needing to decide which college they will attend.

From now until the May 1 notification deadline, the tables are turned as admissions officers try to win over newly admitted students. There will be flattering letters, phone calls and invitations to fun-filled programs designed to get prospective freshmen excited about attending their school.

Some students skip these promotional events, preferring to see the college on a more typical day. Even if you visited the college before you applied, it's worth making another trip. You need to walk across the campus, eat lunch in the dining hall and make sure you can picture yourself at this school. Be sure to sit in on a couple classes and talk with students about the college. If any students from your high school are currently attending the colleges you're considering, get in touch and ask if they'd make the same choice today. Wouldn't you rather find out now that it's impossible to get into popular classes, or that everyone goes home on weekends, or that you'll have no social life if you don't join a fraternity? These are questions that many students don't think to ask when they're first applying, but before making a final decision, you want to know what life is like at a school.

And that includes Jewish life. Last year, one of my students was accepted at Vanderbilt but hadn't visited the school. With only a month to make his final decision, he and his mother decided to fly to Nashville during spring break. They were at Vanderbilt for the first night of Passover and attended a seder at Hillel. This was a great way to learn about Jewish life at the University, and both the student and his mother came home knowing that he would be happy there.

Quality-of-life issues are important, but cost can be a major factor in choosing a college.
One of my students has been admitted to USC, which is his favorite school. But he's also been offered a Regents Scholarship at UCSB. The difference in cost for a four-year education could be $100,000. The scholarship provides guaranteed housing for all four years and priority class registration, as well as enrollment in college honors programs. This is a great deal, and UCSB may now be this student's first choice.

While some students are choosing from many great options, others are dealing with disappointment. Getting rejected, whether by a boyfriend, girlfriend or college, is painful. It's important to understand that it's not personal. There are more students applying to college every year, and they are applying to more schools, so the competition is intense, especially at highly selective colleges. Several years ago, an admissions officer at New York University told me they could have filled a second freshmen class and still turned away plenty of excellent students.

Some colleges will wait-list thousands of students, because they want to let them know that they are strong applicants and there just wasn't room for them. Students who have been offered a position on the wait-list at their favorite school should call the admissions office and ask how many students are on the wait-list, whether the list is ranked and where they are on the list, and how many students were admitted from the wait-list in recent years.

If you really love the school, write a letter affirming your commitment to the college and letting them know of any recent awards, grades or other new information that would strengthen your application. And then try to forget about it, because the odds of being admitted are usually not good. Get emotionally invested in a school that has admitted you, and when you do, that school will become your favorite college. By the time they've finished their first year of college, most students who ended up at their fourth or fifth choice can't imagine going anywhere else.

If you applied to colleges that are good matches, you should have a great experience at any of the schools that have admitted you.

Audrey Kahane is a private college admissions counselor in West Hills. She has a master's in psychological services from the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education. She can be contacted at audreykahane@earthlink.net.

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