WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. -- Jair Moore, a freshman at White Plains High School, has a few more years before college application deadlines approach. However, he and his mother Mira Jackson, 36, attended a College Admissions 101 lecture at the library Wednesday just to ensure he doesn't miss requirements that competition has recently ingrained in the process.
"We came to kind of demystify the process and to see what he needs to do," said Jackson, a compliance manager who plans to take her son to visit art schools in the city this summer. "It's been forever since I applied to college so I wanted to find out what colleges are looking for."
The White Plains family filed into a library lecture room with about 35 others to hear a local college consulting office kick off its free, three-part series on applying to college. Alex Weiner, the owner and head counselor of Collegewise's North White Plains location , advised the dozens of parents and handful of high schoolers of the five steps he considered essential to gaining satisfactory college admissions.
He suggested composing a college list by September of students' senior year of high school, which includes two safety schools "you'd be happy to go to in case it comes to that," five to seven target colleges where guide books say you have a 50 percent chance of getting in, and three to four reach schools that may be hard to gain admission to.
"You're going to want to be rejected," said Weiner. "If you get into all the schools, you could've pushed yourself a lot more."
Applicants should then work on presenting a compelling application that doesn't submit information not requested such as a resume or an additional letter of recommendation. Weiner warned that essays should be written in the voice of kids.
Next, seniors must explain why they're a match for particular colleges, which involves carefully analyzing why a school's program or set-up would work for you and looking beyond the face of value of prestige.
"If you say to a teenage boy, 'I'm going to buy you a sports car of your choice for up to $200,000.' You can bet they'll go to all the trade magazines," said Weiner. "But when you say the same things about colleges, they can't be bothered."
Colleges want to hear about why prospective students would flourish on their campuses in essays and letters to admissions representatives you've met.
Weiner also recommended managing the process by printing the common application out during a teenager's junior year of high school and starting the process early. He also suggested appointing a parent to be a "project manager" and keep his or her child on top of dates.
The consultant reminded attendees that colleges tend to grade candidates by dividing their application into qualitative information, such as grades and test scores, and other background, which is generally weighted in the following order: essays, activities, recommendation letters, and interviews. Both sides are scored with a number one through nine and compared with other applicants.
Bigger schools and public schools tend to give more weight to grades and test scores while smaller, private schools often value non-numerical information more, according to Weiner.
Collegewise will give its college admissions 201 lecture on getting into premiere and ivy league schools in the White Plains Public Library at 6 p.m. on Jan. 25. The group will also speak about the college search at the library on Feb. 15 beginning at 6 p.m.
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