College Admission Process

Parents of the class of ’06 assembled at the Andover campus to participate in the second annual College Counseling Kick-Off. On Friday MIT Dean of Admissions Marilee Jones gave parents insight into the application process in her speech “New Etiquette in College Admissions: What is the proper role for parents?” Jones told the audience that the application process was an initiation rite for seniors. She stressed that interference by parents is detrimental to the student, who, on his or her own initiative, must find the school that is a proper “fit.” According to Jones, the role parents should play in the college admissions is to support their child. As Jones put it, students during the application process are out on sailboats, while their parents are the shoreline; although the students must battle the waves on their own, every once in a while they must come back and orient themselves with the shoreline. Jones’s speech pleased PA parent Dee Dee Coravos. “We know we’re supposed to be doing something, but we’re not really sure what it is. As parents, Jones’s advice made us feel more relaxed.” Director of College Counseling John Anderson hoped that Jones’s speech would “help parents understand how they can be helpful and supportive in the process, and also to let them know when they need to back off. It’s important to us that our philosophy of college counseling is a very student-centered approach.” On Saturday morning, parents listened as college counselors questioned eight Andover seniors about their experiences in the college application process so far. These students discussed the successes and setbacks that they had experienced in the application process. Andrew St. Louis ’05 told the audience about the importance of writing college essays during summer vacation. He stressed organizational skills: “You have to keep yourself organized because it can get really difficult, due to all the forms, teacher recommendations, etc.” After listening to the student panel, parents split into twelve separate groups and the CCO let each group play the role of a mock college admissions committee. Each group had to judge three fictional applicants, admitting one, waitlisting one, and rejecting the third. No other combinations were allowed. Anderson said, “Each of these three students has strengths. We want the parents to understand that when colleges are looking at applications, it’s usually not the case that it’s very obvious if the student is qualified or not qualified.” The three students were Sarah Baker (a writer in a high-powered New York City public school), Dirk Hertz (a compassionate hockey player), and Brian MacPherson, a PA math and science student. The process, as parents soon learned, was far more difficult than they first thought it would be. PA parent Lane Webster said, “Clearly the most valuable exercise was reviewing the applications of three potential students. It allowed us to see the application process from the other side of the fence. We learned what the criteria is for admission, and how the final decision is made.” In the end, an overwhelming majority of parents voted to accept Baker, waitlist Hertz, and reject MacPherson. The student essay was the key factor for acceptance. While Baker’s essay gave parents great insight into her character, MacPherson’s writing sounded trite and revealed little of his personality. Mr. Webster added, “It seems that the heart of the application is the essay. If it’s real and sincere, it comes across immediately.” Mr. Anderson, along with the rest of the CCO, agreed that the weekend was a huge success. In fact, the CCO has already set a date for next year’s kick-off, and it has also considered creating other events to enlighten PA parents about the college admissions process and college life in general. Most parents were pleased with the College Counseling Kick-Off. Patricia Meade said, “I considered it a helpful experience, and I’m glad the CCO is doing it.”