Friday, May 30, 2008

Secret Formulas for Admission

Dean of Admission Janet Rapelye promised to share with alumni "everything you wanted to know about applying for college but were afraid to ask," according to the Reunions schedule.

In case you wanted to go but missed it, don’t worry, Rapelye didn’t actually reveal many secrets about how to get into Princeton. As I’ve discovered by going to my share of these discussions, the description normally leads one to expect that they will learn “everything they wanted to know,” only to find out after spending an hour at the talk that “there is no secret formula.” Drat. All I wanted to know was how to get in! If you weren't going to tell me, it's just mean to get my hopes up like that.

Though Rapelye hewed pretty closely to the “no secret formula” line, I managed to glean a few suggestions from the discussion for you to put in your book of secret formulas.

Anita Harris ’73, chair of the Alumni Council Princeton Schools Committee, delivered an informative address on the interview process. Some tips for the prospective interviewee, based on Harris’ experience, include:

-Make sure your clothing isn’t too revealing. “Don’t think it's necessary to display all your assets,” Harris said. “The only thing we want to see in your interview is your mind.”

-Don't let your itches get the better of you. “Do not scratch in inappropriate places,” Harris advised. “No matter how uncomfortable you may be – wait. Trust me, I know it’s not comfortable, but that applicant did not get in.”

-Don’t sing for your interviewer. Based on an experience with an aspiring opera singer, Harris said that “it can make the interviewer quite uncomfortable, especially if your interviewer is in an office.”

-Get a more formal e-mail address for your interview correspondence. Harris mentioned “shoppingcrazygirl” and “laziestguyaround” as bad choices of monikers.

-Harris is bothered by interviewees who chew gum.

-Grammar is important for Harris. “Especially if you are telling me you got an 800 on the grammar section, do not say you are extremely unique, very unique, the most unique. Once you are unique, that’s it.”

-Last, “don’t talk about how much you hate your mom.” Harris has apparently been through a few too many of these sessions for someone who isn’t a therapist.

Rapelye also revealed a few interesting tidbits in response to questions:

-A high school freshman from Lincoln, Neb., who was a pretty hard-hitting questioner, pressed Rapelye to abandon her “no secret formula” stance and admit that “the most important thing is your high school transcript.” “Every college and university is going to evaluate first your transcript,” Rapelye said.

-Rapelye detests college admissions camps. When an alumnus asked about hiring “professional education coaches,” she gasped loudly before replying, “I hope these kids aren’t doing these admissions camps; I’m really not a big fan of these camps at all. I think that most of you could just sit down right now and end up writing a halfway decent essay.”

-Rapelye is also apparently not a big fan of fancy community service projects, unless, of course, you actually want to do the service. “The New York Times just ran the most appalling article about students going all over the world to do community service. Some people ask how much community service does Princeton require and the answer is none,” Rapelye said, acknowledging that she “know[s] speaking out against community service is like speaking out against social security,” but it just doesn’t help your admissions chances as much as you might have thought.

-If possible, try to be a legacy applicant. Legacy candidates fared better in this year’s admissions pool. This year, 42 percent of legacies were admitted, while numbers from previous years have been in the mid-30s range.

-If you’re an international student, pursue the International Baccalaureate diploma. “If the student has the opportunity to do the IB diploma, we really value the diploma,” Rapelye advised.

-And finally, Princeton isn’t going to get rid of the SAT anytime soon. She’s “a big fan of schools making SATs optional,” but Princeton “finds the SAT a valuable tool.” “It measures critical reading and quantitative reasoning quite well,” Rapelye said.


Steve L. said...

Mendy, after reading your account of the Navigating Process, I wonder if you were even in the right room on Friday. Your quotes are wrong and out of context. Harris' speech was funny and insightful. Rappelye was great too.

Just because you are posting to a blog does not mean you should abandon the principles of journalism. Rule 1: if you put something in quotes, make sure those quoted actually said those things.

Lillian Zhou said...

I wasn't at the event, but from reading the post, I thought Harris sounded quite funny. Rapelye seemed fine as well.

Anonymous said...

amazing stuff thanx :)