October 20, 2018

‘Earning Admission’: Make your child’s dream school a reality

The fall season is upon us, which means it is time for high school seniors to apply to college. Given the competition for admission to the University of California schools and many elite private colleges, plus the high cost of tuition, the process understandably causes anxiety in students and parents. But instead of simply worrying, you can use the next few months to help your child create compelling applications that demonstrate your child’s value to admissions officers and increase the likelihood of earning admission. 

Consider the following to maximize his or her odds of admission and decrease the cost of attendance.  

Write a focused personal statement

Colleges seek students who have perspective, maturity and personality that will add to the life of the campus and their classmates’ education. The personal statement is your child’s opportunity to use her voice to demonstrate what makes her unique.  

A great personal statement is like an interesting snapshot, not a rushed movie. Your child should focus on one instance that is either meaningful or demonstrates something significant that ties to the application prompt. Most colleges limit the personal statement to 500 words. With this word limit, your child does not have the space to cover more than one. 

Your child may be tempted to discuss how well she did in a particular class or extracurricular activity. She shouldn’t. The rest of the application already includes her academic and extracurricular accomplishments. Use the essay to demonstrate additional value she will add to that college — through skills, interests, passion or perspective — that isn’t captured in the rest of her application. 

Whatever snapshot she presents, make sure your child reflects on its importance to her. College admissions officers want to understand what excites your child and what will drive her success on their campuses. And make sure your child’s essay connects this snapshot of her life to her plans for college. By identifying how she will add to the college, your child takes the guesswork out of assessing that for the admissions officer. 

Consider a Jewish studies major or minor

Some colleges take into consideration a student’s choice of a major or minor. If your child is interested
in Jewish studies, he can boost his odds of admission by selecting this as a major or minor. Because these programs receive fewer applicants
than more popular majors, such as psychology or economics, this choice could be enough to make your child stand out in a sea of highly qualified applicants. 

Applicants who have a demonstrated interest in Judaism through community service, or involvement with a Jewish youth group or their synagogue, are good candidates to consider this option. Many selective colleges offer such programs, and they provide an excellent opportunity to learn about our faith, history and culture. 

Demonstrate leadership

Admissions officers seek the next generation of student leaders among the applicant pool. By demonstrating leadership through a club, community service, sport or student government, your child proves that she is able to propel the college forward.  Even if your child has not done so before her senior year, it is not too late for a student to demonstrate leadership. Encourage your child to either start her own club or community service project, or to assume a leadership position in an existing one. Starting a club or community service project also demonstrates entrepreneurship, which is coveted by undergraduate business programs.

Decrease the cost of college

The only thing more daunting than getting into college is figuring out how to pay for it. Colleges award financial aid through both merit scholarships and need-based financial aid; applicants may be eligible to receive both. When deciding which schools to apply to, your family should keep an open mind, regardless of tuition cost. If your child is at the top of the applicant pool based on his grades and SAT scores, he may qualify for a large merit scholarship that could make an expensive college an attractive option. 

Many private colleges also offer generous need-based financial aid packages. Some elite colleges, such as Stanford and the University of Pennsylvania, have financial aid policies that offer grants covering the cost of tuition to admitted students whose families earn up to $150,000 per year, if they apply for financial aid. Even families earning more than $150,000 are eligible to receive need-based grants at these schools. 

Regardless of where your child applies, your family also should apply for federal financial aid by completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), after he has submitted his applications. Some private colleges require students who apply for college-based aid to also submit a FAFSA.

In addition to scholarships offered by colleges and the federal government, your child is also eligible to apply for private, independent scholarships. Once your child’s applications are complete, he should spend time searching for these scholarships. Locally sponsored scholarships sometimes receive few applicants and provide your child with excellent odds of receiving one. There are also many Los Angeles Jewish organizations that offer scholarships. Consult with your child’s high school guidance counselor and temple youth director, and visit scholarships.com to find applicable

GREG KAPLAN is a college application strategist, co-founder of Soaring Eagle College Consulting and the author of “Earning Admission: Real Strategies for Getting Into Highly Selective Colleges.” He is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School of Business and UC Irvine School of Law, where he received close to a full tuition scholarship. He lives in Newport Beach. Visit earningadmission.com for more information.