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Ask the Dean.... and get your college admissions questions answered!
Peter Van Buskirk, 3/7/2010

Peter Van Buskirk is the author of Winning the College Admission Game and former dean of admission at Franklin & Marshall College. His student-centered messaging informs, motivates and entertains college bound students and their parents nationwide. To learn more about Peter, read his weekly college planning blog, or participate in his bi-monthly webcasts, go to www.TheAdmissionGame.com. Also look for his excellent book Winning the College Admission Game: Strategies for Parents/ Strategies for Students in our online store. His blog site includes such current topics as whether or not students should add a YouTube presentation to their application package, how to make sense of admissions decisions, the importance of finishing your senior year strongly, and much more-- you'll find much there of help.

Ask the Dean

The college admission process can be a daunting task for any student let alone those for whom school-based career resource centers and college advisors are not readily accessible. In “Ask the Dean,” former dean of admission Peter Van Buskirk addresses questions from home schoolers. For Peter’s perspective on what home schooled students can do to compete for college admission, contact him at Peter@TheAdmissionGame.com.

Dear Peter,

I took the SATs twice. The second time, my score was only 10 points better in Critical Reading but worse in Math. Do the schools really overlook the lower scores? Should we send both, and trust that they hold to this party line?

Matt G.

Hi Matt!

Most schools will combine the best SAT subscores (critical reading, math, writing) from various tests you’ve taken to create what they regard internally as a “superscore.” I suggest you send in results from both tests.



Dear Peter, I heard you speak last year and very much appreciated your lecture. My daughter was accepted by Brown University and I am wondering if you could refer me to a website or book that relates to loans available to students and parents. I am just beginning to think through financing options and realize I probably need to do a bit of reading.

Robyn O.

Hi Robyn! Congrats to your daughter—that’s great news! Now the fun begins! There are a number of sources to consider regarding financing options but I think www.finaid.org is the best. Good luck!



Dear Peter, Could you recommend a good SAT grammar book to use?

Helen N.

Hi Helen! I would start with materials published by the College Board, Peterson's, Kaplan and The Princeton Review. The College Board uses information taken directly from "retired" tests and the others try hard to mimic that approach. I would also promote a lot of reading—classics, full-length novels and newspaper editorial pages. This type of reading provides exposure to grammar and word meanings contextually. The greater the exposure, the more comfortable your student will be with recognition of the same in testing situations.



Dear Peter, My son is going to college next year. My husband and I are laid off because of the weak economy. We both received severance pay and because of that our AGI is going to be around $100,000.00 for year 2009. We both are receiving unemployment now. How can we express our financial hardship to the FAFSA? Can we get need based financial help? We have no other income and assets.

Joan F.

Hi Joan! If your AGI is $100K for 2009 there is a good chance your son will qualify for need-based financial aid. You do need to provide documentation of your collective employment/ income situation to the financial aid officers at the colleges to which your son is applying. While you’ll also be completing the FAFSA (and, possibly, the College Scholarship Service Profile for some private colleges), these forms won’t allow you to elaborate on extenuating circumstances. That’s why you need to write a letter to the financial aid officers—not to FAFSA. FAFSA is a computer that only reads the information you provide on the form. I also recommend you make arrangements for a follow-up phone appointment about a week later.



Dear Peter, I attended your seminar last year when my daughter was a sophomore and wanted to get your guidance about an opportunity my daughter has for this coming summer between her junior and senior years. She will be working again (her third year) this summer at a local children's amusement park. In addition, she wants to take two weeks for another activity that could be viewed in a positive light as she goes through the admissions process. The two activities are an Architecture-related study program or a People-to-People Student Ambassador Leadership Summit. My daughter's chosen course of study is Architecture.

During the college visits we have been making, we have learned about various "intern" programs or summer courses that would give her exposure to Architecture. As a People-to-People Student Ambassador (participated in two events already), she recently received an invitation to participate in a Leadership Summit next summer. It’s a 9-day program that will enable her to work on a Habitat for Humanity project in New Orleans, earning 60 service-learning hours.

Which option would look better on her resume as she prepares for the admissions process? Our experience with P2P has been excellent but I am not certain if this type of activity will have a high consideration when she is competing with other students who may have more hands-on experience in her chosen field.

Kathy K

Hi Kathy! Your daughter needs to do whatever will make her happiest. She should not make decisions based on how she thinks admissions officers will respond (she’ll probably guess wrong). They want to see committed engagement. In this case, the decision she makes will reveal commitment and growth relative to her passions. It would appear she is already pretty invested in leadership and service. Hence, the People-to-People program makes sense as a further investment in her character development and cultural exposure.

By the way, this is not a bad question for your daughter to ask at some of the colleges that are interesting to her. I suspect most architecture programs will focus on her progression in math and science and, possibly, a portfolio. The importance of her summer work experience cannot be overlooked either.



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