May 25 — 5:11 pm, 2011

Navigating the college admissions process

The college application and selection process can be incredibly complicated.

Marsha Perry, assistant director at the Penn State Philadelphia Community Recruitment Center, offers advice for students on the most important things to consider.

First, be aware of the deadlines. Resources like College Board suggest that students apply to five to eight institutions. Each has its own set of deadlines.

"People applying for a spot in a competitive major, like architecture or nursing, or even a competitive campus like Penn State Main, need to understand that spots fill up." Perry suggests students apply by what most universities call a preferred deadline, giving them a better chance of being considered for admission.

The second thing to pay attention to is individual applications. Perry suggests treating the application process like a job hunt. That means fulfilling all the requirements of each, and even some that are optional. Many schools have an optional essay. Essays give admissions officers a chance to understand situations that may have prevented perfect grades, and provide insight into aspirations and achievements that might not be obvious from applications and transcripts.

Though many applications do not ask for a resume, Perry suggests pasting resumes where the application asks for a list of extracurricular activities, especially ones demonstrating leadership. "Some students won’t include that they were Boy or Girl Scouts because they think it sounds silly, but institutions like that."

Visit schools prior to or during the application process, Perry says. "Students need to go and see if they can actually see themselves on campus." This can also be a good time to identify people to contact with questions during the admissions process.

Most importantly, Perry stresses active communication. For instance, there needs to be a collective effort when managing funds for things like application fees and tuition deposits. "This is a partnership between students and their parents," she says.

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