TARRYTOWN, N.Y. The most important thing to keep in mind when applying to colleges is that it's a very human process, according to Gay S. Pepper.
Students who really understand that whatever's on their mind that they want to share, there are going to be people who are going to read it with a great sensitivity, Pepper said. It's not an automatic, cut and dry thing.
Pepper is a professional educational counselor who worked for five years as the Associate Dean of Admissions at the University of Pennsylvania. She has also worked as a college counselor for 23 years in several secondary schools. Pepper spoke at Warner Library on Thursday night to a small audience of high school students and their parents. She offered advice for filling out the Common Application and applying to college in general.
When filling out the Common Application, Pepper stressed that students and their parents get organized because students will often be applying to several different colleges at the same time. Pepper also encouraged students to go early to their teachers and guidance counselors for recommendation letters.
The personal essay is one of the most important parts of applying to college, Pepper said, because they give students the chance to shine.
This is your chance to really put your best foot forward, Pepper said.
Test scores don't tell admissions officers who the student is, Pepper said. Many colleges also place less emphasis on test scores because the tests can be easily coached.
The essay could be the very thing that is the tipping point, Pepper said.
While Pepper encouraged parents to help students get organized, she cautioned against parents rewriting personal essays, saying high school students have a different style of writing than a more mature person. Colleges, Pepper said, know when an 18-year-old is writing and when a 45-year-old is writing.
Pepper also cautioned against skipping the box for additional information. This is the space where students should address red flag issues, such as periods where their grades slipped.
There's usually very good reasons why you have a down period, Pepper said, telling the audience to be honest with colleges.
For more information on the college application process, visit http://www.collegeandmoreinc.com/ .
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