Recently, I saw a private coach inside a Starbucks using a thesaurus to help a high school senior make a college application essay sound "more mature." Another counselor encouraged one of my students to write about a troubling failure without focusing on the lessons learned. This season, yet another of my students couldn't explain to me what different sections of her story meant because her tutor, a screenwriter, had added examples into her essay that were unfamiliar to her.
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Advisors counsel that applicants should meet deadlines, spend time researching colleges, be open-minded, have fun, communicate what "resonates" to the applicant about a particular school, not fall in love with one or two colleges, follow directions precisely and make sure to click the "submit" button. Rudeness towards staff members, feigning enthusiasm, and being pretentious are other turnoffs reported by admissions officers. There is strong consensus among counselors and advisors that starting the college search early is vital. One recommends starting early in the twelfth grade; another suggests that even this is too late, and that the process should begin during the eleventh grade and summer before twelfth grade. And sources suggest that students who begin the process earlier tend to earn more acceptance letters. Another advantage of beginning early is so that applications can be proofread for mistakes. Advisors suggest that emails should be sent to specific persons in the admissions office, not to a generalized inbox. Advisors suggest that applicants sending in paper applications should take care that handwriting is legible, particularly email addresses. Advisors counsel that mistakes or changes should be explained somewhere in the application; for example, an adviser at suggested that a record need not be perfect but there must be an "explanation for any significant blip." Advisors suggest that applicants should "own up to any bad behavior" such as suspensions since schools are "dutybound to report them", and suggest that a person should "accept responsibility and show contrition for "lessons learned," according to one view. Disciplinary actions are usually reported to the colleges by the high school as a matter of course. Advisors suggest that the application should help a student position themselves to create a unique picture. It helps, according to one advisor, if a person knows himself or herself, because that enables an applicant to communicate effectively with a prospective school. A report in the in 2016 suggested that some universities were considering changing their admissions guidelines to be more inclusive of less affluent applicants, to put less emphasis on standardized test and AP scores, and to put more emphasis on determining "which students' community-service projects are heartfelt and which are merely window dressing"; the report suggested that college admissions policies were often "cited as a culprit in sleep deprivation, anxiety and depression among students."
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