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Panel of Experts

Karl Schellscheidt

SAT Prep Expert

  • BSE, Princeton University '90
  • M.A., Secondary Education Seton Hall University '93
  • J.D., University of Pennsylvania Law School '00

Fred Hargadon

Dean of Admission

  • Swarthmore College
  • Stanford University
  • Princeton University

Don Betterton

Financial Aid Expert

  • Director of Financial Aid, Princeton University (1973-2006)
  • Certified College Planner
  • Principal, Betterton College Planning

Seamus Malin

Admission Expert

  • Harvard University
    Dir. of Financial Aid
    Asst. Dean of Admission
    International Office Director

Applications: The Applicant’s Perspective

Fred Hargadon

college admissions expert advice from I’d now like to share some thoughts on the topic of applying for admission. What you will quickly learn over the next few months is that, for many of the questions you are likely to raise about various aspects of the admission process, there is no single set of answers that apply for all colleges. Do colleges require personal interviews? Some do and some don’t. Do colleges treat your SAT and Test results as a combined score or do they treat the subject scores separately? Some do the former, some the latter. The list of questions goes on and on.

You are likely to find these differences frustrating in at least two respects. First, you will have to treat each institution (and therefore each application) individually. That’s not so bad when you think of it, given that we assume you want the colleges to treat your application individually. Second, a particular college’s practices with regard to how it treats your high school transcript or your test scores, and so forth, may not be in accord with your preferences. It is natural to want colleges to place the greatest weight on the factors you show up best on and the least weight on all others. My advice is simply to roll with these differences, especially since there is not much you’ll be able to do about them anyway. A good rule of thumb here is simply to make sure that you meet each college halfway in completing its application.

In completing your application, you should just be yourself. You should not attempt to match some imagined ideal candidate you think we have in mind. (I confess that every time I offer this advice, I remember a comment made by Mark Twain: “Telling a person to be himself is the worst advice you can give to some people!” Still, my advice is my advice.)

In thinking about what you hope to gain from college, you might also want to consider the possibility of taking a break between school and college–deferring your entrance to college, in other words. Every year, about two dozen or so of the students to whom we offer admission choose to defer their entrance to Princeton for a year, some just to work, some to travel abroad on an American Field Service or similar program, some to continue private music study, and so forth. I mention it here just so you are aware that it is an option.

My next post will discuss applications from the college’s perspective.

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