Have you ever looked in the mirror at yourself and wondered how others see you? It's very hard to be objective about how you look, since you're seeing yourself from inside of your own head.
The same applies to how you see yourself as a college applicant. What you perceive about yourself may be completely different than what the admissions committees see when they examine your overall profile, as it comes through on your applications, Common or otherwise.
In my work as an independent college admissions counselor, I use several questionnaires to evaluate a college applicant's chances for admission to the schools s/he is targeting. I thought I would share some background about those questionnaires with you prospective applicants here, so that you might be able to better examine how you may stack up against the “competition" you'll face in the applicant pools at your chosen colleges.
The first questionnaire I use discerns personality and temperament preferences. It's a quick and easy way to learn about who you are and why you think and behave the way you do. If you care to take a look at it, it's located here. This is essentially a mini-Myers-Briggs Type Indicator that produces sample personality type profiles for students (or anyone else) to review and learn about themselves from a life-preferences perspective. I use this information to help me understand what types of behaviors my advisees most likely will display during our time together, such as promptness in responding to assignments, expressiveness in their writing, and intellectual slant, among other aspects. Try it, you may like it.
The second questionnaire I use is called a Stats Evaluation. It's a rather long form that probes into a student's academic, extracurricular, writing, and other areas of their school and non-classroom life. Here's a sample of the information it provides:
Name of Student:
Student email address:
Year in school of student: (in summer, list September grade.)
Gender of student:
U.S. Citizen/ Permanent Resident? If no, provide country of citizenship:
Name and type of high school (public or private?):
Current weighted GPA:
Current unweighted GPA:
What is highest grade on your school's grading scale?
Class rank (if available) and total number of students in your class:
Your guidance counselor would probably say that, when compared to offerings available at your school, your course load has been:
SAT I Scores:
SAT II Subject Test Scores (List as Subject/Score)
ACT Composite Score: (Provide breakdown of ACT Score by test topic):
List of ALL Junior classes and final grades:
(Current juniors should list the most recent grades in each class … quarter, semester, etc., if you don't have final grades yet.)
List of ALL Senior Classes and most recent grades, if any: (Current juniors please list planned senior classes.)
List AP Classes taken and AP Exam Scores:
List most significant extracurriculars:
List significant positions of leadership held and indicate which you think is most prestigious and why:
Which of your activities do you feel is most prestigious, if not the one named above?
If you are an athlete, name your sport and describe your ability as …
(If you play more than one sport, please list separately)
Do you think you are good enough to play in college? If yes, which NCAA division? (Note any special recognition you have received for your sport (e.g.,“Ranked 16 in New England," “All-League First Team," etc.))
Volunteer/Service work (list activities and hrs. per week):
List significant honors and awards:
List college summer programs and other summer activities, including paid work:
Have you been rejected by any college or special academic programs to which you applied? If yes, please name:
What is your most exceptional accomplishment? (This can be anything that you are proud of, not just an academic or extracurricular achievement.).
What makes you different from your peers? (For example, family situation, background, activities, interests, beliefs.):
With whom do you live? (Please list all household members and their relationship to you. For siblings, list ages, too. If a sibling is in college—or already graduated—please name the college.)
Do you consider yourself a member of any racial or ethnic minority group? If so, which one(s)?
Did your parents graduate from college/graduate school? If so, from where?
Other legacy connections (List relationship to you and college.):
Parent occupation(s)/employer/job titles:
Is there any reason why a college would consider you or a member of your immediate family a VIP (Very Important Person)?
List colleges you are considering:
Are there any colleges you've considered and decided against?
Major(s) you are considering:
Are there any other fields in which you have a strong interest but probably won't be a major?
How far from home would you be willing to go to college (e.g., within an hour's drive or a day's drive)?
Will you consider schools that would be reached primarily via airplane from your home?
Do you prefer:
Would any of the above locals be unacceptable to you?
Do you have a specific location you prefer (e.g., Boston, California, New England, Mid-Atlantic, etc.)?
What size colleges would you consider? Please rank by preference:
Small (under 2,500)
Medium Small (2,500-5,000)
Very Large (Over 18,000)
Would you consider a women's college?
Do you have a preferred religious affiliation for a college?
Would you fit in best at a college with a reputation for being:
(Explain, as needed)
Will you be applying for need-based financial aid?
Is non-need-based financial aid (“Merit Aid") important to you and your family as you make your college list?
How important is the cost of attending a college to your final decision?
Please explain special needs or concerns or any extenuating circumstances that might affect your college selection and admission:
Finally, please attach or paste in a sample of your writing—this can be a college essay you are developing or an essay you wrote for a class. (If possible, select a sample that shows us something about your personality or your beliefs, rather than an analysis of The Great Gatsby or the causes of The Civil War. If you don't have an appropriate sample handy, you can skip this step.)
Before you submit your Stats Form …
– Have you thoroughly answered all questions that apply to you?
– Do you have any other comments or questions that might affect the list of colleges we recommend for you?
After I have received the above information, I deploy a follow-up questionnaire that probes a bit deeper, especially into the area of college matching:
Post-Stats Evaluation Questionnaire
Preferred nickname (if any):
What colleges (if any) have you visited and liked? (This can include official visits with info sessions and tours or even a campus you've only seen from a moving car.) Add a few words after each one to say why you liked it.
What colleges (if any) have you visited and NOT liked? (Why?)
What colleges have you read about or heard about and liked but not visited (other than those already discussed) and why?
What colleges have you read about or heard about and considered but have now eliminated from your list (other than those noted above) and why?
Do you have a college that you would call your “dream school"?
If you had to choose between a highly selective college where you had to struggle to keep up academically and one which may not be as prestigious but where you could be a star (and position yourself well for internships, jobs, or grad school), do you have a clear-cut preference?
Name three academic subjects that you would like to either continue or try in college:
What major, if any, do you have in mind?
How definite you feel about it right now?
What career or careers, if any, do you have in mind?
Campus Vibe: This is what I have dubbed my 1-to-10 “Granola Scale" test. A college that is a “10" on my scale is full of non-traditional types. Think purple hair; lots of pierced everything; no shortage of tattoos.
Are you planning to visit any campuses or schedule any college interviews between now and the start of the next school year? If so when and where?
Is there something you want me to know about you that hasn't been asked so far? (Special interests or talents, weird things that make you laugh, family problems or atypical situation, health issues … anything?)
You may think that all this information is overkill. However, remember what I said at the top of this article. You have to try to see yourself as an admissions committee would see you. Therefore, once you lay out the answers to all of these questions, you can see on several sheets of paper your overall admissions profile. Then, you can try to make an objective judgment about which areas may need to be strengthened or at least better “marketed."
As far as timing goes for answering these questions, I would recommend doing so no later than the end of sophomore year. That way, you can use your junior year to make any “course corrections," especially in the area of extracurricular activities. Obviously, there is no substitute for strong academics and a challenging course schedule. However, it's your overallprofile that will make the difference for you when competing with all the other applicants out there.
So, get an objective handle on your profile. Use the above tools to bring out the aspects about yourself that may have remained hidden before. The light of day can reveal a lot of truth about your college admission chances. Don't hide from that light!
Be sure to check out all my admissions-related articles on College Confidential.