It is that time of year. Some of our “Captains” of Change
are awaiting decisions from school / college admission committees. Some
lucky ones are already making the hard choice, regarding which school/
college they should go to. And there are many others who will be in
such situations in the coming years; and they are very minutely making
So we decided
to run a feature. And feature two sisters, representing two sides of
the admissions process. Anjali Wali is an admissions counselor and
Nisha Wali is seeking admission this year. We believed that this
feature would be helpful to our “Captains” of Change. And then we got
the answers from Anjali and Nisha, which have strengthened this belief
So, if you are an admissions seeker this
year or may be one in the future or if you are a parent who is keenly
involved in your kid’s future; Please read on.
Wali is currently a junior at Babson College studying Business. She has
worked in college admissions for three years and currently runs the
Admissions Assistants Program, interviews prospective students, and
works extensively to train Babson's student ambassadors. She also works
part time for Atlas Venture, a venture capital firm located in Waltham
, MA , on their technology team. So we asked her some questions and we
have her answers:-
- From your knowledge, what are the most important criteria that schools consider while making admissions decisions?
- a. There
are so many different factors that come into play when reading an
application. The application process is nothing more than a way for a
school to get honest answers to some important questions. Ultimately,
they are not trying to figure out whether or you are smart or not – it
is more a question of whether or not you are a good fit for their
institution. An application has 6 basic components, all required in
order to find answers to the most basic of questions.
- Transcript - What kind of a student are you? Could you keep up with our institution academically?
- Essay - What is your personality? Can you complete an analytical thought process? What is unique about?
- Recommendations – How are you perceived by other people?
- SAT scores - In comparison to your peers, how competitive are you?
- Extracurricular activities – Outside of academics, how do you like to spend your time?
- Interests – What are you passionate about?
the heaviest factors tend to be your transcript, activities, and
interests. I have found over the years that a strong transcript is your
best friend - It is the one thing that gets you to the top of the next
round of reviews. That being said, other factors that also influence an
application include geography, area of study, and interaction with the
school to name a few.
us about some of the best admissions essays you have come across. What
information do you seek from essays by prospective students?
best essays I have ever read always find a way to both fit into and
break out of the stereotype of an institution’s student body.
- Fitting In
example, a school like MIT ‘s applicant pool is almost exclusively
comprised of students looking to major in a science or math related
field. That is their niche market, it makes sense that those types of
students would like to attend MIT. The admissions department knows that
in order to be successful and happy at a place like MIT, you need to be
able to relate to your peers. This is where the part about fitting the
stereotype is important. Talk about your love affair with prime
numbers, admit that fact that you secretly wrote hundreds of fan
letters to Bill Nye the Science Guy, tell the story of time you
electrocuted yourself taking apart the kitchen toaster. In high school
those things made you weird; in college they make you fascinating
- Breaking Out
being said, it doesn’t exactly sound like the greatest party, does it?
A student body whose idea of fun includes compasses, the Pythagorean
Theorem, and blackjack games no one can get in on unless you have
mastered the art of counting cards. That is why an admissions officer
is looking not only for a student who can relate to their peers, but
also one who can bring a new talent, point of view, or experience to an
institution. The guy who can build an engine from scraps – they already
have that. The guy who can build an engine from scraps and uses his
talent to teach women over 40 how to maintain their cars on the weekend
- now THAT guy is someone who I think MIT could use.
great outline of characteristics that an essay should embody was put
out in the New York Times by Tufts University back in November. An
essay should exhibit Practicality (ability to implement an idea —
gather the necessary resources, attract others to the cause and lead
them to a solution), Analytical Ability (ability to assess an idea for
its feasibility and logic), Creativity (ability to think outside the
box), and Wisdom (ability to assess an idea for service to the common
good). Incorporating all of these is not necessary. However, if you can
hit two or three of these in a well-written essay, an admissions
department will in most cases, give your application a second glance.
- Are college visits important -- most schools provide information online as well as in DVDs and through other media forms?
visits are most often for your own benefit. Keep in mind that some
smaller schools do track your interaction with the admissions office,
including visits that you make, campus tours that you take, and
interviews that you schedule. It is used as one of many tools to gauge
interest in an institution.
being said, I am a strong advocate of visiting the schools that you are
applying to. Contrary to popular opinion, college is about much more
than a strong academic program. Books, DVD’s, and college websites are
loaded with interesting statistics and facts about the schools that you
are thinking of applying to. However, you must remember that every
statistic can be skewed and every college has its own agenda. The best
way to truly attain a good picture of what a school is like is to visit
it yourself. Talk to admissions counselors, walk the campus, interact
with the students, and get to know the surrounding area. I have spoken
with hundreds of students about how they found their dream school and
in 80% of cases, the campus visit was the deal-breaker. When you feel
at home in a place, meet people who are (amazingly) so much like you,
and really connect with a campus, that feeling is often what applicants
recall when it comes to filling out their acceptance forms.
- What criteria should guide students in choosing the best school for them?
there is one thing that I think needs to be stressed more than all
other points it is this: not every school is right for every student.
The best schools in the world are not always the best choice for you. I
have seen many students fight the hardest fight of their lives to be
admitted to an institution, only to transfer out the next year.
Sometimes it is because the academic rigor is too intense, sometimes it
is because college was not what they expected it to be. But, more often
than not, students transfer because they cannot connect with their
peers. College is the best four years of your life…but it can be the
worst if you are surrounded by people with whom you cannot socially
reason that college is such an enlightening time is because you are,
for the first time, surrounded by people who are just as passionate,
driven, and accomplished as you someday hope to be. In choosing a
school, find a place with students who would actually be your best
friends and a program that you love – I guarantee that you will achieve
more simply because you are in an environment that makes you
comfortable. To quote a famous guy, “What's in a name? That which we
call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” Get your first
class education – but get it in the right place for the right reasons,
not because it sounded good once upon a time.
- How important a factor should cost be when students choose a school? What should one know about financial aid?
have heard many different arguments both for and against including cost
in your decision making process. Some people say that you cannot put a
price on an education. At the same time, the burden of student loans is
no small weight as I’m sure many people can tell you.. What I would say
is this – do not let cost deter you from applying to any school;
getting in is the first step. Once you have your options in front of
you, it is a matter of finding a balance between what you want, what
you can afford, and what makes the most sense between the two. In some
cases, if you are an attractive student to an institution, the school
will work with you to find a financial aid package that works for you.
No school is looking to drain your bank account and providing as much
financial aid as possible looks favorably on the school’s
attractiveness to applicants.
in mind that often admissions packages are created by the Admissions
Office but financial aid is handled by an entirely separate office.
Most appeals or inquiries must start in the financial aid office and
Admissions Counselors have little say over what is ultimately offered.
- Tell us about the most common questions you receive from applicants and their parents and what are your answers to them?
I find that parents ask questions about the admissions process,
financial assistance, and campus safety. Students are more interested
in the social life, work load, and campus community.
one thing that both sides ask me is why I decided to attend the school
that I do. To that question I say this – I wanted to go to school that
would allow me to be in a two way relationship. I wanted to go to a
school that would give me access to invaluable experiences that would
make me a better person. And in return, I wanted to be able to enrich
my environment through doing the things that I love. And that is
exactly what I got. I have professors I love, experiences I will always
cherish, and friends I will never forget. In return, I get to do this –
I get to talk to students like you about a place that, for the right
person, can be extraordinary. I think that can be said of any school
when the student and college are the right fit.
- I still have questions. Where shall I seek more information?
- I would be happy to talk further about these topics with anyone who has more questions. Feel free to contact me!
Likewise, I recommend reaching out to current college students in our
community who attend many wonderful institutions for a first-hand point
of view – they are probably your most valuable resource!
Wali is an 18 year old High School senior who attends Billerica
Memorial High School in Billerica MA . She is active throughout the
Billerica community and serves on the board of the local Leo Club teen
community service organization. She hopes to pursue a career in the
Biological Sciences and will be attending college in the Fall of 2008.
She gave us her thoughts regarding making the choice of your school
Does it matter where you go to college?
There certainly are advantages going with some universities, in terms
of Job prospects. But in the end your job security and growth has
everything to do with your personality and commitment to your chosen
field of study. A certain university name may get your foot in the door
when it comes to certain industries but the brand name for the college
cannot do the work for you.
the quality of education; No matter where one goes to college one can
get a top education if one really wants it. In my opinion you can get
the same education at a state school as you can at an Ivy League school
if you are willing to commit yourself to that pursuit. It all ends up
coming down to one's commitment to one’s education.
How do you decide which college is right for you?
are so many factors which play into the decision about where to go;
location, program offerings, size, majors, cost and so many more. I
would say in order to decide which college you should choose you have
to ask yourself a few questions. First, can I see myself being
successful in this type of learning environment? Then, can I see myself
living here? Also, will I be coming out of school with exorbitant
amounts of debt?
much about choosing a school, is the feel and the people on campus. You
should also revisit each school after you are accepted because who you
were at the beginning of the summer last year is not who you are now,
and you might not like the vibe of the learning environment, or you
might even fall in love with something you hated before. With the rise
in tuition each year averaging at 7%, cost plays a huge role in your
decision and you should definitely discuss the financials with your
How does one decide on a college major?
a major is a huge step in the college process. For me, I was positive I
wanted to pursue something in health, but many aren't sure and I think
that that is perfectly fine. You will definitely find something you
absolutely love, in college. The biggest argument brought on by all
parents is whether the career you choose will pay enough to keep your
stomach full, and they have valid point. As young adults we have to
understand that no matter how much love you have for movies, being a
movie critic doesn't pay much and we have to be conscious of those
things when choosing a major. You should still have pride and love in
whatever career path you choose but let’s face it; In this day and age
What questions will you ask before accepting a college offer?
First and foremost will probably be the financial package, because no
matter how financially sound you or your parents may be, you are still
taking on a $100,000+ investment. Second of course but certainly just
as important as number one is your program of study. You must choose a
program where you will get the most attention and a quality education..
And the last but not least would be, would I like to spend the next
four years of my life here? And of course the classic question: Will my
parents still be able to drop off Indian food at my dorm?
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