College admissions officers by and large are very nice, and very helpful people when they can be. The best are quite informed about their school. They know the academic programs as well as the faculty. They have to. The faculty want to see students who are capable of meeting their expectations.
However, even the best of college admissions officers will not come right out and answer some questions. They have a job to do when they see you on campus: sell. They want to have a relationship with you that they hope will last several months, resulting in a deposit.
Here are five things that a college admissions officer is unlikely to tell you, but they will not impede your efforts to find out on your own.
1-We want you to apply, whether you can get in or not.
This goes in two directions in college admissions. Some schools need better students. The admissions staff will try to get you to consider their school, even if you have more attractive options elsewhere. They’ll say that their school is just as good as any other, when it might not be. Or they’ll tell you that its ranked among the best or that a degree program is accredited the same as (insert name of more famous school here).
Other schools are exceptionally selective, but the admissions officers do not want to be discouraging in their tone. I almost wish that they would just tell you that you will need to have some exceptional quality to get in when your ACT or SAT scores are in the bottom quartile or your grades are not up to snuff for the major that you want.
2-We cannot meet your family’s full financial need–but we want you to apply anyway.
Admissions officers will say that financial aid makes the financial aid decisions, although they make the decisions about the merit-based awards. Most schools do not combine the admissions and financial aid offices. The financial aid officers will help in terms of telling you what forms to complete.
But unless the offices are combined–Muhlenberg is one school where they are–you are “flying blind” in terms of knowing whether you will receive aid from most schools. This is one reason why the most selective schools are so popular. They publicly state that all aid is need-based and that they fill the full need.
3-You are going to take on deep debt if you don’t have direction
When colleges were less expensive and took up a much smaller portion of a family’s income there was less concern about going to school for an extra semester or year if you changed your major, flunked some classes, or wanted to pursue a second major.
Today, most graduates leave with Stafford Loans borrowed at the maximum ($27,000 for four years, $31,000 for more than four). Worse, when a school fails to meet the full need you might have to borrow more through a private lender or the Federal Parent PLUS loan program. I’m wary when college admissions officers soft pedal this. You should be wary, too.
4-You have to take classes that you didn’t like in high school
I really hate when tour guides talk about the course that they used to “get out” of a requirement that they didn’t like. I also wish that more college admissions officers would say “college is not like high school.” Too few do. They do an adequate job of explaining the services that are available to help students succeed; the student tour guides do, too. But I really wish that prospective students would hear that “you could get grades that you never got in high school, unless you use these services.”
5-You are “subsidizing” student activities and buildings that you’re not going to use
As a Rutgers graduate I’m sensitive to this point when it comes to athletic fees and investments. I was not an athlete, only a fan. However, schools are also heavily criticized for building exceptionally nice student centers, residence halls and recreation centers in the name of improving the quality of life on campus. They also expect the current students to help them cover the costs.
My advice: appreciate what your school has. Other people will have to subsidize the activities that you participate in that they do not. If you seriously object to a school’s investment in buildings, sports and so on, and you believe that you want a less expensive educational opportunity, then look at other schools.
There are more than five things that college admissions officers will not tell you, though most depend on the type of school as well as the campus community. Those above apply pretty much to any college.
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