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Interview with Jay Trelease for WFME Radio

“Finding the right college: academically, socially and financially”

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What do you believe is the primary goal of your organization for the students that you help?

Our main goal is for our students to be happy and successful at the college they select. We strive hard to search for the best learning environment that aptly meets their needs and assists them in attaining their goals. We do our best to provide the right options for our students so they can choose a college that meets their academic requirements while also providing the social environment they are seeking.  These are the building blocks toward fulfilling a complete and successful college experience.

What kinds of difficulties have surfaced during these challenging economic times?

We have observed more confusion and apprehension among parents and students. Parents are participating more actively in the college admissions process. They are also getting more anxious about costs and admittance. This has resulted to students applying to more colleges, typically a minimum of 8-12 schools, with a certain range of price and selectivity. Additionally, by matching schools to student’s academic and social requirements in the beginning, helps to assure completion in 4 years rather than 5 or 6.  Thereby mitigating the costs associated with extra semesters.

What are the most common misconceptions of students about entering the college admissions process?

Numerous students have the misleading assumption that having high grades and test scores along with community service experience should successfully get them into their chosen school. It’s usually tough for students to manage their expectations, especially when they believe that grades and scores are the only important considerations to pass the college admissions process. We try to explain to them that there are different factors involved in the acceptance process. For instance, visiting the school campus and meeting the admissions officers are essential practices to getting accepted.

What suggestions and advice do you give students when their choice of school and goals after high school differ from those of their parents?

This is a common situation we encounter. Parents usually have different opinions from their children when it comes to selecting a college. We listen to the opinions and wishes of both students and parents. We help them open up their perspective and listen to each other so they can reach a clearer understanding and conclusion. We also present viable options to encourage better discussion. Most parents desire happiness and success for their child but the ultimate decision still belongs to the student.

What do you think are the vital aspects of a strong college admissions essay?

The college admissions essay is a great chance for students to show their strong points and characteristics to the college. We advise students to be honest, specific and write about a topic which is important to them. We recommend that they write a compelling piece that engages the reader through an interesting story and not through implausible situations and big, filler words. The main goal is to convince the school that the student can contribute something worthwhile and become a valuable part of the college community.

College Admissions More Complex Than Ever, Pt. 3

It goes without saying, that matching a student to a complementary college “personality” has tremendous advantages for both the student and the college. Unfortunately, today it is getting harder and harder to figure out the school’s real personality hiding under that fancy promotional website and brochure.

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College Admissions More Complex Than Ever, Pt. 2

Choosing a college is not easy and takes time and effort for both parents and the student. Too frequently, this important decision is made on hearsay information or by advice given from relatives or friends. We often hear parents say, “My friend’s kid went to Syracuse and had a great experience” In the new environment, this approach simply won’t do. The parent, high school, and student must work as a team – researching, reviewing, and reconfirming information. A successful college choice should be based on personal learning style, campus culture, and family finances.

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Considering the tough competition in the college admissions process, what do you believe is a recommendable way for a student to stand out from the pool of applicants?

We emphasize college visits. An admissions officer once said that if a student applies to a college that’s only six hours away from home and hasn’t visited at all, then he’s shooting himself in the foot. This basically implies that showing enthusiasm helps a lot in impressing the admissions officers. A student who goes to the campus and meets the admission officers will more likely get accepted than others who don’t. Other good practices are going to the college’s school fair, and sending follow-up thank you notes.

College Admissions More Complex Than Ever, Pt. 1

The process of getting into college has changed dramatically in a very short time. With the introduction of the Common Application, applications to colleges have skyrocketed. Applications to the prestigious schools increased last year by an estimated 7 percent. In a study by the National Association for College Admission Counseling, the median acceptance rates dropped 10 percent at private, nonprofit 4-year colleges and 7 percent at public schools from 2001-2008. In this type of environment, with students competing for acceptance into most schools, statements that a high school counselor might make to students such as “If you’re unsure about what you want to do, register as “undecided” and you can wait to declare a major at the end of your sophomore year.” Or, “don’t worry so much about making a mistake in your college choice. If it doesn’t work out, you can transfer.” Or, “let’s not worry about money. Let’s worry about getting in and we’ll work out a financial package later.” Once good advice, it may no longer be valid.

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