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By Robert LeVine

As much as I write, and as many webinars as we present, sometimes it is better to hear from others who have gone through the admissions process. This month, we present the observations of Jessica, whose son achieved some great schools … mostly in the last decisions received in April.

His first admissions offer came from Georgia Tech, but given that they are citizens of Georgia and the student is quite strong academically, everyone was pleased but not necessarily ecstatic. When the dream school – Stanford – rejected his Early Action application, the bubble burst.

Jessica explained her experience to me last week:

“In the beginning, I really didn’t know anything about college admissions except for the names of some schools. I expected it would be very busy and tough for the whole family, and I prepared for fighting and yelling and everything that might happen around it. In January of 11th grade, our high school counselor gave us some advice, just a very brief explanation of the process. After that, she was really busy, and although my son could reach her, we could not. Sometimes, he could only ask her a quick sentence, maybe he’d get five minutes if he was lucky. From school teachers, we didn’t get any support on essays at all.

“I learned a lot from you, our consultant. Talking with other University Consultants of America (UCA) parents helped a lot too. One of them had just gone through the process with her son, and that was reassuring. With UCA, my son’s Common App essay went pretty smoothly. Putting it into small steps and then putting it all together … I was very happy with that process. It was so simple!

“Stanford was a very hard application, with a lot of essays. After he submitted Early Action to Stanford, my son took a break. He felt confident he’d just be accepted, so he slowed down dramatically. His thought was ‘Let me get out of this admissions process and I’ll be free!’ That made me really anxious. For a whole month, I asked him about other essays and other schools, but he said ‘I can just follow what I did for Stanford.’ I was panicked!

“Then he got rejected from Stanford, and it was already mid-December. Despite UCA continually telling him to get back to work, when I asked him ‘which essays can you show me?’ he was only partly finished with any of them.

“When it came time for his Cornell essay, I had heard UCA say ‘dig, dig, dig’ but I didn’t understand. Neither did my son. We thought we could find the information from the admissions website. Later, my son showed me what UCA had shown him: how to research in other places. Once he realized how other students had actually gotten into their top schools, what they had done with their research and their essays, and how he could actually talk to Cornell and understand the school, then he could see what was missing from his essays.

“Then the ‘big’ decisions came in. After being rejected by Northwestern, then wait listed by Wash U, my son acted like he accepted his fate because he already had Georgia Tech. But I could tell he was down. I was not expecting anything, but then Duke said yes and then Cornell did too, just one day apart. When Cornell came, I heard something loud upstairs, then I saw my son go looking for my husband. When we saw the acceptance letter, we all hugged!

“What is my advice to you? Focus on schools that fit your son or daughter. That is most important. For parents: Please just let your kids do whatever they can do. Don’t push them. Let it go. The hardest part for me was being careful how much pressure I put on my son. Sometimes I pushed him, especially after the Stanford rejection, but when I pushed too hard, it didn’t work. I realized a little late that’s not a good way to help him through the season. For students: do your research as early as possible, and dig deeper than you think is possible, go as deep as you can. That’s what works.

“Finally, it was really helpful to have a consultant lead the process! It made the year bearable for our whole family.”

Robert LeVine is the founder and CEO of University Consultants of America, an independent educational consultancy assisting students around the world with applications to colleges, universities and graduate schools. For more information, call University Consultants of America, Inc. at 1-800-465-5890 or visit www.universitycoa.com

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