Notes from the Front: Supplementing the Supplemental College App

As our daughter began the college application process this fall, I was surprised at the many letters she got in the mail from colleges near and far encouraging her to apply to that particular school. All the letters were crafted to make the schools and their academic and social opportunities sound as attractive as possible.

Some of the letters even started to resemble the credit card offers we used to get by the dozen when credit was cheap and easy. But instead of offering “0% interest for 12 months,” they were offering her “No application fee and we’ll waive the essay requirement!” Unless she gets a letter that screams, “Full-ride for four years!” she just puts the letters into the “Thanks, but no thanks” file.

Just like when we got credit card offers because of our credit score, Valerie is getting these letters because of her score ““ but in her case it’s her SAT and ACT scores, GPA, class rank and AP scores. Apparently for those colleges, as well as some of the UC’s, she would be accepted based solely on her strong numbers.

But for the private schools, high test scores alone aren’t enough to ensure acceptance.  They’re putting together a freshman class that has a mix of strengths and interests ““ and even a little bit of quirkiness. After going to a number of presentations by the schools, I came away with the impression that they review the student’s applications as if they are developing a guest list for a really interesting party. Test scores are important but they also want kids who can do more than use a #2 pencil to fill in the correct bubble.

So, if that’s the case, how do you showcase your student beyond just what can be recorded on an application form? In a sense, how do you market a student? And placing an ad in the school’s newspaper probably isn’t the best way.

Since Steve is in the marketing business, it wasn’t a big leap for him to come up with the idea of making a video of Valerie. We interviewed her on camera talking about what she is passionate about and what she hopes to get from her college experience. In editing it, Steve cut in some samples of her art portfolio as she talked about specific pieces.

Are we being stage parents who think their daughter is so special that an admissions director has to see a film of her in order to fully appreciate who she is as a person? Not entirely. I think it’s more akin to the father of the talented place-kicker who sent videos to 200 schools so they could see his son in action, and as a result, got a full scholarship. Our attitude is that if the schools are willing to take the time to look at the video, it won’t hurt her chances of being accepted and could certainly help.

At this point, we’ve sent a link to the video to admissions directors at two schools. One of these people was out-of-town so we don’t know what his reaction, if any, will be to receiving it. However, the dialogue that followed when the gal at the other school watched it was very interesting.

Steve first got an email back from her basically saying that it was too long and didn’t focus enough on what admissions departments would really be interested in. Steve listened to her comments, edited it down, and exchanged many emails with her. At her request, Steve sent her a revised version. Thinking he was done, he was surprised when a couple of days later, he got an email from her that starts, “I’ve been thinking about Valerie’s video”¦” and goes onto suggest that he put back in some of the footage he had edited out.

Did the video get the attention of an admissions officer and make Valerie not just a name on an application but a real person to them? Most definitely. Does this mean she’ll be accepted and get lots of financial aid? That’s our hope.

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