Issue 9: Colorado School of Mines (1/2), What I’ve Learned from Reading Over 10,000 College Essays
Exclusive Insider Interview: Colorado School of Mines, Admissions Counselor and Application Reader
My side role is actually social media, so I manage the Mines Admission Twitter, which is specific to admissions. It’s not just a general university Twitter, so we put additional application tips on there and really try to gear the content of that page toward the prospective student audience. During the admission cycle, once we actually have students who’ve been admitted, I manage an accepted students Facebook group and a family of accepted students Facebook group. I provide additional content in there specific to accepted students and, of course, helping them to get the information that they need to decide if Mines is the right fit for them or not. Then I put on a couple of different events, one of which is a Meetup event. Because about 60% of our student population comes from out of state, it can be challenging for them to meet other people who might be going to Mines. Actually, each cycle we have several pockets of students from different states and so I try to get them together. I don’t put any staff members at these events; it’s really just an organic event where students can get to know other students and families in the area and potentially find a future roommate and things like that. So that’s a part of my role and then I just talk about roommate conflicts and once students have actually committed, help them through the housing process and what does that look like and really just be kind of a one-stop shop for a lot of pieces of information.”
Dear Socrates Q&A
This week, we selected a question from K.D., a parent in Port Orange, FL:
“In an earlier article you stated that legacy status and coming from a family who donates can help the applicant’s admission chances. Regarding Northwestern, does this hold true even if my donations have been small ($25-50/yr) and if my child’s SAT score is well below (~300pts) the average at NU. She is in the IB Program, did a 5-week prestigious (Cherubs) camp there, is passionate about film and screenwriting, seems like a great fit beyond being a horrible test-taker. Does it even make sense to apply, much less early decision?”
It sounds like the only thing “missing” from your child’s profile is a high SAT score. From what you described, she has taken academically rigorous courses (IB program), demonstrates extracurricular excellence (Cherubs and film/screenwriting) involvement, and has legacy status.
Donating $25-$50 a year won’t put you in the “donor” category — those donors are people with buildings or scholarship funds named after them. With the sheer number of applications, it’s unlikely that the admissions readers will get in contact with the alumni association and check your donation history since you graduated.
We confirmed that with Valerie Smith, the Assistant Director of Undergraduate Admissions this week who told us: “We are not aware of whether or how much a family donates during our review process. We would note a legacy tie during any review when a family has ties to Northwestern, but our focus would remain on the student and his or her credentials and fit for campus.”
However, donation thresholds aside, as a highly active alumni, whether through volunteering, donating, or hosting alumni events, you might have some name recognition with the admissions office. For example, an applicant whose father is the president of the Chicago NU alumni club would garner more attention than an applicant whose alumni parent never associated with NU after graduation. For a school like Northwestern, though, just merely having a legacy tie is advantageous enough, which we’ll talk about in a bit.
Secondly, your daughter has direct legacy status. Luckily for her, her connection to Northwestern is you, her parent. Alumni connections through parents or siblings, as opposed to more removed relatives like fourth cousins or great-grandparents’ in-laws, appear more attractive to admissions committees. Strong alumni affiliations and loyalty tend to lead to more donations to the “family alma mater” over the years. That’s why Northwestern and similar schools look for direct legacies.
SocratesPost asked an insider connected with the Northwestern Office of Undergraduate Admissions to gather another layer of insight into your question. And this is what the anonymous insider unofficially told us:
Parke has a wealth of experience and seems like an effective coach, but not unlike many academics, he seems to struggle to answer questions directly and succinctly. The content is helpful, but the delivery…not so enjoyable. Don’t worry. We parsed through all the filler and gave you The Skinny on what you need to know.
Here are the 7 best takeaways from Parke Muth’s nearly three-decade career in admissions:
1. When writing your college essay, use the pyramid theory.
“You are looking for something to grab you if you’re sitting in your chair 8 hours at a time. It helps to have something in the first paragraph that’s focused and concrete rather than ‘I wanna save humanity.’”
Parke recommended starting the essay with an extremely specific hook. Then, as the essay progresses, connect these specificities to abstractions and bigger ideas, emulating the shape of a pyramid. Parke quoted the first sentences of a few very memorable essays. It’s difficult not to want to continue reading.
i. “I sat in the back of a police car.”
ii. “Grandma started about the rats today — six foot ones.”
iii. “The woman wanted breasts.”