How I Got into College: Four College Students Reveal How They Stood out from the Crowd and Tipped the Admission Scales in Their Favor

By Mosser, Traci | Careers & Colleges, September-October 2005 | Go to article overview

How I Got into College: Four College Students Reveal How They Stood out from the Crowd and Tipped the Admission Scales in Their Favor


Mosser, Traci, Careers & Colleges


What's the secret to getting into your dream college? If you answered good grades, challenging classes, great essays, strong test scores, and meaningful extracurricular activities, then you're the right track. "In fact, the single best predictor of success in college is success in the high school classroom," says Monica Inzer, dean of undergraduate admission at Babson College in Massachusetts. For admission staff though, deciding who gets in can be difficult when so many candidates have great academic qualifications. It often comes down to who has that "something extra." In the profiles here, students reveal what made them stand out and counselors explain why they got in.

LETTER PERFECT

Sebastian Price

Age: 21 Hometown: Olyndon, MD

College: Wheeling Jesuit University, Wheeling, WV Major: Theology and Secondary Education

GPA: 2.3 SAT Score: "Just over 1000"

Admission Counselor: Hillary A. Hanlon

Why He Stood Out: Recommendations

When Wheeling Jesuit University showed interest in recruiting him for his lacrosse skills, Sebastian Price got excited. He had just one problem: his high school academic record wasn't strong enough to guarantee him admission. Still, he applied and hoped for the best.

Luckily, when his admission counselor, Hillary A. Hanlon, noticed that Sebastian's grades slipped his sophomore year, she did some detective work and learned that his grade dip coincided with his older brother's sudden death. Based on her recommendation, the admission committee took a closer look at Sebastian's file and then asked him to retake the SAT, show improvement in his grades, and provide letters of recommendation. Sebastian raised his SAT score, but it was his heartfelt recommendation letters that tipped the scales.

"What caught my eye was the overwhelming support in the letters [from his guidance counselor, his football coach, and his priest]," says Hanlon. "I see recommendations everyday, but these stood out."

SERENADE TO SUCCESS

Vanessa Nicole Lee

Age: 19 Hometown: Alton, NY

College: Lebanon Valley College, Annville, PA

Major: Sociology

GPA: 82 SAT Score: 1100

Admission Counselor: Keo Oura Kounlavong

Why She Stood Out: Musical talent

Some college applicants will do just about anything to grab the attention of an admission counselor. Vanessa Lee wanted to go to Lebanon Valley College so badly that she wrote a song about it and sang it during her interview. Part of the chorus goes:

I'll plant my hopes in your backyard.

I love you more than Julliard.

Give me the chance and you'll see

I'll be everything to LVC.

"Ms. Kounlavong, my admission counselor, was shocked, and I think she was really excited that it wasn't an ordinary interview," says Vanessa. "I basically said to myself, 'I want to come to this college, and I'll do whatever it takes.'

"I was worried about getting in. I had an 82 average, and I was into a lot of extracurricular activities and community service, but LVC really likes to see higher grades. I think my song really gave me that extra spark."

Kounlavong says that Vanessa was a borderline applicant in many ways. "She was a good student, but not a great one," she says. "This song, though, made her really stand out. The song conveyed her desire to go to LVC and her passion for music. She even touched on some of her obstacles in the song--she mentioned needing to take her SATs again, for example. I was very touched. I even brought our admission director in to listen. That song helped push her through to acceptance. …

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