By Margo Bartsch
With the 2012 election behind us, we have seen how the changes in American demographics have influenced the election outcome with shifts in gender, ethnicity, and age. Similarly, college applications have changed since when we parents applied to college. Even in the last 10 years, the admissions numbers have changed. Here are some numbers for a popular university within the four-hour driving distance from the area/from Shelburne (the end of the article will reveal the name). Ten years ago, total applications were 16,000 and have now doubled to more than 34,000. The acceptance rate was 82 percent and has now decreased to 62 percent from a much larger applicant pool. Standardized tests scores with a high of 800 averaged 570 per section (math, reading, and writing) and have now jumped to 600. The CVU average is around 550 per section. Thus, it is even more important to start planning early to defy these odds.
This is my ninth year in working with students with their college application essays and essay prep for the SAT/ACT. Many parents ask me when is a good time to start preparing for college. My response is as soon as the student adjusts to the freshman year classes and routine. High school is the time to start rounding-out the activity and academic interests with a range of extra-curricular, work, and volunteer experiences. Colleges are looking for candidates who have been consistently involved with a range of activities, rather than just filling-in-the-blanks with random commitments. The purpose of being well-rounded is to show passion for specific interests and leadership with personal growth.
With college application essays, there are a range of topics where the students must relate the question to specific personal experiences. If your child is a star soccer player, one essay will suffice to describe a “significant experience, challenge, or risk.” Other essay questions ask about “comfort zone, national/global issue of importance, favorite character in literature, three words that describe you, and why a specific college.” In all cases, the student needs to connect their activities to the values that motivate them.
As an adjunct professor in the business school at Champlain College, I have seen firsthand how our children’s experiences translate into success in the college classroom and campus environment. Students who have overcome obstacles are able to relate those experiences to working on group projects with a range of personalities and work ethics. Also, students who participate in summer programs are more independent in making new friends and becoming leaders on campus. Collectively, our children’s experiences help to define them.
With the increasing competition in college admissions, the high school experiences in and outside of the classroom influence the student’s growth and perspective. These stories make compelling essays that differentiate the student from their peers. Would your child be able to get into the University of Massachusetts at Amherst? I hope so! It is never too late to start planning for the college road ahead!
Admissions statistics from UMass-Amherst, Fall, 2012. Margo Bartsch is the founder of College Essay Coach, a locally-owned business. She is an adjunct professor at Champlain College. This is her ninth year in providing one-on-one instruction to write college application essays and prepare for the SAT and ACT Writing sections. She has partnered with Marie Thayer, founder of College Concierge, to provide planning services. Contact Margo at email@example.com or at 985-3770.