Issue 7: Harvard University (1/2), I’m Going to College–Not You!
Exclusive Insider Interview: Harvard University, Alumni Admissions Interviewer
Jerilyn earned a Master of Education (Ed.M.), specializing in Organizational Learning and Development, from Harvard’s Graduate School of Education. She currently works as a Senior Program Manager at Amazon in Seattle.
As much as everyone focuses on the grades of Harvard students and graduates, it’s really broader than this, more holistic. It’s really the person… if that person is down to earth, if that person is well-rounded, and all these other aspects that we can’t really tell from someone’s resume or application. It comes down to the conversation. When you ask questions about what the candidate’s motivation was, for example, in pursuing a volunteer opportunity, as opposed to the candidates just telling us “Oh, I did X for Y number of years,” it’s really that conversation with us that helps us understand what the motivation is and it’s something very clear. It comes through whether the candidate is really looking to add another bullet to their resume, or something that some people are truly passionate about. You can see that pretty often. Bottom line is it really depends and we’re not looking for something special or something that can be tangibly articulated but it’s more that conversation where we get the impression. It’s just one piece of the puzzle. There have been candidates that I highly recommended after the interview who didn’t ultimately get an acceptance from Harvard, so there’s a lot of other factors that come to play that alumni don’t have much input or insight into.”
Members can also read Jerilyn’s answer to this question:
Dear Socrates Q&A
This week, we selected a question from the parent of a twelfth grader in Westchester County, New York:
“Dear Socrates, How much does your intended major matter for college admissions? Does listing Latin or Classics, for example, help if you have the appropriate classwork and activities to back it up?”
At Carnegie Mellon, a top computer science institution, the School of Computer Science (SCS) boasts an acceptance rate of 5%, nearly three times more selective than the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences at a 14% acceptance rate.
Take this account from a father who revealed how the college consultant he hired used the strategy of repackaging her daughter into a rarer breed:
“So here’s what this woman does. She creates a new profile for our daughter–a whole new persona. No more talk about loving math and science and wanting to be a doctor. She doesn’t care if the kid’s already a doctor. Brown and Yale are overloaded with them already. She notices our daughter has take some Latin, so she tells her to downplay the math and science and announce her intention of majoring in classics. That should impress them!’”
Anne C. Roark describing a father she encountered, I’m Going to College–Not You! p. 53
It didn’t work out. She was rejected by the big guns and the most of the “medium-guns.” Anne later heard through the grapevine that the daughter eventually grew fond of where she ended up, but her father was “still recovering.”
When I worked as a private college consultant, my more experienced peers would suggest that I use this “repackaging” strategy with my clients. My clients comprised of mainly high-achieving students from tiger families with a tight grip on their children’s future — or to put it nicely, tiger families highly invested in their children’s future. However, a few things stopped me from recommending this to many students.
“College choice has become the crucible of anxiety for millions of parents and students across the country. Acceptance of a son or daughter by a top college, as defined by the nebulous prestige mongers, has become the coin of the realm, the ultimate “good parenting” seal of approval. The better the bumper sticker, the better the parent, right? Every cocktail party from Manhattan to Monterey includes conversations about college tours, SAT tutors, summer “enrichment” programs, and ultimately, application and acceptance lists.” — I’m Going to College–Not You! p. 3
Jennifer Delahunty, Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid at Kenyon College, compiled the experiences of many parents who underwent the same process and shared their best lessons. These parents — many of them well-known writers, university deans and admission insiders themselves — add another layer of insight to a universal parenting rite-of-passage.
We read 27 parents’ accounts of their experiences helping their kids through the college admissions process. Some of them suffered; some of them thrived. Some of them felt proud of their children; some felt concerned. If you’re asking yourself how to avoid being a helicopter mom, a nagging dad, or a nonchalant parent, let these experienced parents be a lesson for you.
Here are SocratesPost’s 5 best lessons from 27 parents’ experiences with their kids’ college admissions.
1. Let your kids experience failure.
From Middlebury College Dean Lisa Gates:
“In my first years as a dean, I was often surprised by the kind of young men and women who ended up in my office. I expected to see some students from disadvantaged backgrounds, students for whom the academic rigor or the distance from home or the experience of being surrounded by such wealth, could be a difficult adjustment. I expected some students with disabilities and health issues that affected their ability to get their work done. But the ones who surprised me were the students who had had every advantage — and therein lay the problem. Without the constant monitoring and propping up by the parents and the resources they marshaled for their kids—the private schools, pricey college counselors, therapists, coaches—their kids fell apart. These were kids who had no experience with failure, because parents or their extensive support system had never let it happen. Once they’re at college, though, small issues can become much more serious and their utter surprise that the seriousness of their predicaments is, well, surprising.” p. 94