GPS Panels Provide Inside Look At Applying To And Transitioning To College

  • Thursday, February 9, 2023
  • GPS website

Six university admission professionals traveled to GPS for a two-part interactive experience for our juniors and their parents. On campus were Ali Hamilton, associate dean of Admission at Sewanee: The University of the South; John Leach, associate vice provost for University Financial Aid at Emory University; Robin Meryl, senior associate dean of Admission and Director of Recruitment & Equity at Occidental College; Renee Orlick, assistant vice president of Institutional Research & Planning at Lewis & Clark College; Gil Villanueva, vice president for Enrollment at Rhodes College; and Leigh Weisenburger, vice president for Enrollment and Dean of Admission & Financial Aid at Bates College.

Parent Panels
GPS + McCallie parents were invited to visit the GPS campus for a parent-only presentation about supporting their children through the college admission experience. Andrew Reich, GPS director of College Counseling, welcomed the crowd before introducing the speakers and asking them to share a quick piece of wisdom to get started. Tips included:

From Occidental’s Meryl: “Keep your eyes on your own paper.” She reminded parents to focus on their own student and their process and worry less about what others are doing.

From Bates’s Weisenburger: “The college search process can be done in one dedicated hour a week as a family. It doesn’t need to be every dinner conversation, every text, every reminder.”

From Sewanee’s Hamilton: “Have transparency with your student about important factors such as price and distance.”

From Emory’s Leach: “Remain as flexible and open-minded as you can; let them find their way.”

From Lewis & Clark’s Orlick: “Have fun. Check out schools you wouldn’t think would be the right fit. Sometimes finding out what you don’t like can help find what you do.”

From Rhodes’s Villanueva: “Encourage your student to partner with their college counselors so you can stick to being their cheerleader.”

Groups then divided up to rotate through three panels. One, hosted by Villanueva and Orlick, centered on The Parent Role in the College Search, which touched on everything from understanding all the stats schools share to how to best handle college visits to understanding demonstrated interest. 

Some of the main takeaways included:
Share deal breakers and nonnegotiables with your student early.

Ask schools to explain their statistics. (For example, if a school has a lower four-year graduation rate, is it because required classes fill up quickly and are hard to get into or could it be because they have more students who study abroad and explore opportunities more?)

When planning college visits, don’t try to cram too much into one day or one trip.

Explore the cities and towns the schools are in in addition to campus.

Don’t take over on a tour. Let your student lead the process.

Don’t let your student decide to attend a school they haven’t visited.

If your student doesn’t know what they want to study (or even if they think they do), make sure to find schools that have personalized advising so they can have guidance as they explore possible majors.
Demonstrated interest isn’t about doing the most–it’s about showing engaging genuinely with schools you are most considering.

The next panel, hosted by Occidental’s Meryl and Sewanee’s Hamilton, centered on The Application Process. The pair took questions from the audience about what types of activities carry the most weight to what makes an essay stand out and what a good recommendation letter includes. 

Some main takeaways included:
Whether it’s an organized activity like a job, club, or sport or a less organized activity such as familial responsibilities or playing in a band, the activities you list should show interests beyond academics and illustrate balance.

There is no one secret for making an essay stand out. The most important things are to be authentic, specific, and thoughtful. What does your student want to make sure the college knows about them?
Parents don’t need to read their student’s essay. They should let the college counselors handle that process.

Recommendation letters should come from a core teacher class and can sometimes be helpful when they come from a teacher who has seen your student struggle and overcome.

Make sure your student asks their teachers for recommendation letters early. They, likely, will be asked by several students and need time to be thoughtful.

The third panel, hosted by Emory’s Leach and Bates’s Weisenburger, covered The Financial Aid Process. The two professionals defined merit-based and need-based aid plus the importance of being completely transparent on financial aid applications, and explained how to estimate your family’s potential aid award and tuition contributions on university websites using the Net Price Calculator.

The groups reconvened for closing comments from McCallie Director of College Counseling Jeff Kurtzman, who assured those in attendance that their children were in good hands with the counseling staffs at both McCallie and GPS, and while it can be an intimidating time, it’s also an exciting one.

Student Panels
The visiting admission professionals returned to campus, this time to speak with our junior class. Again, they split into three small groups for rotating panels, this time covering topics Making the Most of the College Experience, What Does It Mean When I Hear that a College Might Be a ‘Good Fit’ for me? and Activities, Deadlines, Essays, Testing, Demonstrated Interest, Course Rigor: Admissions!

As the girls made their way through the panels over the course of the morning, students had the opportunity to ask questions and seek additional guidance. They reconvened for parting words and one final piece of wisdom from each admission professional.

At GPS, we recognize selecting a college is a personal journey that involves the student, her college counselor, and her family. While her counselor can provide expert advice and insight into colleges that best meet her requirements and fit her profile, ultimately the decision lies with the student and her family.

Because the college search is uniquely tailored to each girl, it is no wonder that GPS alumnae go on to graduate from the college where they started at a rate that’s nearly double the national average.s

Student Scene
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