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College Planning Tips
Peter Van Buskirk, author of 'Winning the College Admission Game', 1/4/2011

Peter Van Buskirk is the former dean of admissions at Franklin and Marshall College, located in Lancaster PA. Now working as an independent consultant for students and families on the college admissions process, Peter has written the excellent and helpful book Winning the College Admission Game, published by Peterson's (you can order this book and read a review of it in our PA Homeschoolers Online Store). I highly recommend that families with students in high school sign up for Peter's excellent email 'College Planning Tip-Sheet', a free service. Go to Peter's comprehensive website to sign up: www.theadmissiongame.com.  Peter also offers a further service called Best College Fit, which gives more individualized help and guidance to students. Although Peter is writing to a broad audience of students, mostly from public or private schools, he is also very familiar with homeschooling, as one of his top staffers is Cindy McKeown, an 'alumni' homeschooling mother and former head of the very popular CHESS homeschool family enrichment program of weekly classes. Here's a selection from Peter's latest email-- and there was also a fascinating article about what it means for colleges to say they are 'need blind' in admissions, links to a wide range of articles by others on the admissions process and college life, a question and answer feature, and more. There are also a growing number of books on the college application process written by homeschoolers for homeschoolers-- we've reviewed several of these options already, and look for more in the near future.

College Planning Tips -- from Peter Van Buskirk
Each issue of the Tip-Sheet features ten tips for staying sane and finding success—yes, it is possible to do both—as you engage in the college application process. Many of the following tips are taken from Winning the College Admission Game. Published by Peterson’s, Winning is available in the PA Homeschoolers online store.

1.    Make sure your application delivers key messages. What is it that you want to make sure each admission committee knows about you? Use your application (essay, interview, letters of recommendation) to convey those messages.

2.    Reveal your gifts. Make sure your application reveals the talents, interests and perspectives that will be attractive to colleges as they build the communities that are embodied in the new classes they will enroll. Submit portfolios, DVDs and CDs to both the appropriate program director and the admission officer who recruits in your area before the end of January.

3.    Be alert to interview opportunities. Many highly selective colleges/universities will invite you to participate in regional alumni interviews sometime after your applications have been received. While the interviews are rarely evaluative in nature, they are often used to gauge a student’s interest. What might be assumed about your interest if you do not accept the invitation?

4.    Send your test results to the schools that need them. The responsibility for making sure your test results are delivered to the appropriate schools rests with the applicant. Whether or not you exercise “score choice,” make sure each of the colleges to which you are applying are scheduled to receive your score reports in a timely fashion.

5.    Be attentive to financial aid deadlines. If you think you need financial assistance, make sure you complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as soon as possible. If you are applying to private schools, complete the College Scholarship Service (CSS) Profile. Both applications are available online. You can’t receive assistance if you don’t apply for it.

6.    Be “straight up” in addressing financial aid. If you know you need assistance, start the application process now. Don’t wait to be admitted because colleges will have committed their funds by then. And resist putting all of your college savings into the first year in order to enhance your chances of getting in (because you don’t need financial aid). It might work, but don’t expect any favors if you show up with your hand out for support in your second year.

7.    Visit campuses. You might think that campus visits are no longer relevant at this time of year. If you haven’t been to a campus, there is no time like the present. If you’ve already had a “look see” visit, go back to stay overnight and attend classes. The period extending from the middle of January through the end of February is a great time to visit.

8.    Stay focused academically. Admission officers who can make fine distinctions between lots of great candidates will be content to wait before making final decisions. They want to see what you will do later in the year when you don’t think you have to do anything!

9.    Update your application. Your application is an open file. If you have already submitted an application, make sure you continue to update it with new information about honors, awards, and new grades.

10.    Stay alert to ED (Early Decision) options. Many colleges that offer ED opportunities will extend them through Round II options in January. If a college on your short list is emerging as a strong first choice, you might be able to convert your regular application to ED. You must be serious about the commitment, though, as you will be required to withdraw your other applications and enroll if accepted ED.

For further info, see: www.TheAdmissionsGame.com


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