College Counseling

Words of Wisdom from Admission Officers

Our approach to college counseling is based on our ongoing communication with colleges and universities. While each institution has its own standards, many have similar goals. Here you will find excerpts from various admission representatives that form the basis of our college search philosophy.
Because we’re looking for students who are likely to succeed at BU, grades matter. Taking honors, AP, IB or the most challenging courses available to you matters. Test scores matter. We’re also looking for students who will create a unique, diverse community at BU. People who are doers—volunteers, entrepreneurs, and artists. Students who are passionate about a single pursuit or exploring a wide variety of subjects. That’s why we consider extracurricular activities and interests, special talents and skills, along with recommendations from teachers, counselors, community leaders and others who know you well.”
—Boston University
Students often focus on getting in rather than representing themselves authentically. This is the moment to think deeply about who you are and what matters to you. Have confidence in what you have done and trust where you are going. Believe in yourself and reflect carefully on how you want to present yourself. In the strongest applications we read, a student’s genuine voice stands out.”
—Stanford University
I worry that we as admissions officers may have unintentionally transmitted incorrect messages about what we hope to see. Students become supplicants, not applicants, doing the right things for the wrong reasons…How do we sort out the genuine student from the image essentially manufactured for admissions purposes? We look for credibility and, ultimately, genuineness.”
—Bruce Poch, Former Vice President and Dean of Admission at Pomona College
We want to find the ambitious and the curious, students who want to tackle issues head-on and are open to change. Duke is a community of talented learners, and we look for people who have unique qualities, who can challenge us as much as we challenge them. We want some bumps…We like students who make intelligent and interesting mistakes, students who understand that only in risking failure do we become stronger, better, and smarter.”
—Duke University
Start with yourself, not the college. Examine your academic interests, career goals, financial resources, and likes and dislikes. What do you want in a college? Get involved in activities. There is no right or wrong extracurricular activity; do what most interests you. Spend time exploring those interests.”
—University of Virginia
We encourage you to take the writing of the essays seriously and to write openly and honestly about activities, interests, or experiences that have been meaningful to you. What is most important is that you write in your own voice. If an essay doesn't sound like the person who writes it, it cannot serve him or her very well as a personal statement. As with every document in the application, we read essays very carefully and try to get a full sense of the human being behind them.”
—Yale University
Admission to NYU is highly selective. A large and exceptionally well-qualified applicant pool enables us to enroll a freshman class that is academically talented as well as remarkably diverse. However, there are no set "formulas" that we follow when we review applications. Rather, we actively seek students who have a variety of interests, talents, and goals. In general, we would prefer to see substantial involvement in a few activities rather than superficial involvement in a laundry list of clubs and organizations. We particularly like to see evidence of leadership roles.”
Remember, it’s more than just academic preparation. It is, how am I vested in the community, how am I vested in my high school or junior high? What clubs, organizations, or extracurricular events that I participated in, am I adding value, am I making a difference? It’s not just a litany of, “I’m in 20 clubs.” We would much prefer to see a student in fewer clubs but they have vested themselves and made a true difference in their lives and other people’s lives…We’re not judging what the topic is. We’re judging, did you take hold and grab it and move forward. The issue here is, that you took hold of something and made a difference. And that you vested yourself, you were excited, that you were passionate. Those are the things that we would be looking for, not just a type of student.”
—Douglas Christiansen, Vice Provost for Enrollment and Dean of Admissions at Vanderbilt University
You’d be amazed how many essays we receive that don’t relate at all to the question we were asking! There is no “right” answer. Don’t think you know what we want to hear. Whatever you have to say about the topic is of interest to us. Be authentic. We want to hear your voice in your response – the experiences, opinions and values that have shaped you. Feel free to write on something you are passionate about so we can get to know you better.”
—University of Michigan
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