Preparing for College

Good (and Bad) Questions to Ask Admission Offices

Question: Does Bryn Mawr College allow double majors?

Concentrate and ask again. But, this time, don't ask The Dean. If you want to know about double-majoring at Bryn Mawr …or if Connecticut College requires SAT's … or if the University of Miami has need-based aid for international students (etc. etc.), check Web sites first. Then try emailing or telephoning the admission office if you strike out on the Web.

Granted, asking college-admission questions can sometimes feel like consulting a Magic 8-Ball. Even when you get an answer, you're not always sure that it's reliable.

But some questions have simple, straightforward answers, and you shouldn't be fearful of going straight to the horse's mouth (usually admission offices) to get them. The Dean receives far too many school-specific, cut-and-dry queries that should have been directed to admission offices (or to different college departments) instead. These include:

-Does the University of Georgia have vegan entrees in the dining hall?

-Which is the best bus stop for the University of Toronto?

-If I send art slides to Grinnell, who actually sees them?

On the other hand, there are some questions that you probably DON'T want to ask admission offices … either because the question itself could reveal details that are best kept under your hat or because you're only going to get a party-line answer, not the straight scoop, from admission officials. These questions include:

-Does Harvard set a higher bar for Asian applicants? [“No, of course not!" Hmmm …. ]

- Will needing a lot of financial aid hurt my chances at Mount Holyoke? [“Mount Holyoke promises to meet the full demonstrated need of all students." (But if you're a borderline applicant, your need may be too great to meet, and you might be better off asking Gramps and Grammy to kick in, instead of asking for aid from the college.]

-Do I have to tell colleges that I was kicked out of summer camp last month for smoking pot in the arts & crafts hut? [You better hope that the admission office doesn't have Caller ID when you ask that one!]

By the way, I found Bryn Mawr's info on choosing majors after a 4-second Google search, which is much faster (and less annoying) than getting a lecture from The Dean. See

The answer: Outlook good.

(posted 9/2/2011)