College Admissions – It’s Tougher for Girls


By now, I’ve worked with hundreds of young people in helping them get to the next step. Whether it was helping them find the right job or internship, or get in to the right college, I feel like I’ve learned a lot in my 15+ years of doing this. 

But it was in the spring of 2015, as my youngest child received her remaining answers from her colleges, and in the following months of decision-making, that I learned some key things for the first time. My daughter is a good student. We were, and still are, very proud of her. She had the total package – grades, leadership, service, class rank, depth in extracurriculars.

What did I learn: Lots of girls have all this! 

  • You can find plenty of press, research and statistics that tell you that young women mature faster, tend to be better time managers, and in general have a more compelling ‘total application’ than young men. Plus there are more of them applying to college.  Since nearly every school aims for a 50/50 gender balance, this puts our young women at a disadvantage. I had no idea how much. (By the way this is just the opposite for a woman applying to a STEM field – more on that later).

I also learned: Be sure to put in enough safety schools, and schools where you have good reason to believe you’ll get merit or financial aid. 

  • We cut our list of schools too narrowly. My daughter was very clear on where she did and did not want to go to college. If she didn’t want to go somewhere, we took it off the list. So we only applied to 8 schools. In the end, she got in to nearly all of them, but the scholarships were disappointing – nowhere near what my older boys had received  – and they did not have as strong an application as my daughter did!

Finally, I learned that every college website has a net price calculator. 

  • This is a tool that is tailored to each college’s acceptance and financial aid philosophies. By plugging in key information about your teen’s grades and resume, and your own financial picture, you can get an excellent idea of  A.) Whether your son/daughter will get in to that school, and B.) How much aid they can expect to receive. This is a highly accurate indicator, and few people think to use it. Read more about the NPC here.

In the end, my greatest lesson was this. In nearly all cases, your child will go where they were meant to go. My daughter didn’t get as much aid as we would have liked, and she will face more loans than my boys. Yet after her first semester, she feels challenged and happy, and cannot imagine being anywhere else. 

Winning the Interview

medalLaszlo Bock is a Sr. VP of People Operations at Google, and based on my experiences with helping people get in to Google, I feel relatively confident that he has the ‘finding great talent’ thing figured out. So I’m happy to throw in a quick plug for his book, especially since I think he’s nailed this one – preparation is HUGE in acing the interview. Read more.

Deferred or Waitlisted? Don’t Give Up!

Now is the time of year that can be the most stressful for seniors looking ahead to college. Applications are in, and many answers have started to come back through on-line portals, emails, texts and the good old-fashioned oversized envelopes in the mailbox. Some schools have discussed financial awards, others are waiting until we file our taxes, and are able to update the FAFSA with the most current financial information.   Students are visiting schools – for the first, second or even third time, trying to get a closer look and see if this is the place for them.

Students are often unsure of how to proceed when they’ve been waitlisted or deferred. Many feel it’s the same thing as a rejection. The truth is, it’s NOT and if you still REALLY want to be at that school, there are things you can do to show them that you are still very interested!

What is the difference between being wait-listed and being deferred?

hour-glass-illustrationThe Waitlist

If a college tells you that you’ve been placed on the waitlist, it means that you qualify for admission and that they like you, but that other applicants are more of a priority. It’s not the best news you can hear from a school, but it also means you still have a chance of getting in. If other accepted students choose not to go to that school, it opens up a spot for someone like you who is on the waitlist.

A Deferral

If a college defers you, it generally means that admissions hasn’t yet made any decision about you, except that they haven’t outright denied your acceptance. Deferrals from acceptance are mostly relevant to students who applied to a college through Early Action or Early Decision. If you weren’t denied or accepted, your application has been deferred into the regular admissions group and will then compete with all the other applications.  If you are deferred as a regular admissions applicant, it generally means the school wants more information about you before making a final admissions decision – senior year grades, more test scores, letters of recommendation, etc. If they request any information, do your best to get it in as soon as possible as it will speed up the decision process.

So what do I mean, “Don’t Give Up?”   If you’ve been deferred or wait-listed, show the school that you’re still interested, and that you will be an important member of their community! Sign up and participate in on-line chat sessions or join their Facebook page. Send an email to Admissions reaffirming your sincere interest in attending their school.   Be polite, specific, and show that you have good reasons for wanting to attend. Include updates that you didn’t put in your original application – new awards, service activities, AP test scores or a spot on the All Star team – anything new that you are really proud of.

There is the senior who slinks away quietly after being placed on the waitlist, feeling that he has been rejected and is obviously not good enough to be a freshman in that school’s incoming class. And there is the confident soon-to-be high school grad who continues to sincerely demonstrate his interest with positive communication and updates for the Admissions team. Who would you move off the waitlist and accept to join your school?

First Impressions

It was the summer before my oldest son’s junior year. We both knew we needed to be thinking about this college thing, working on this college thing, but neither of us was quite sure where to begin.

So we started visiting some schools. This was a great way to get us both focused, to start ruling things out, and finding ‘yes’ schools to put on his list.

“Too small,” he would say.

“Too weird,” he would say.

“Cute girls” – ok he would never say that. But I know my son well enough to know when he thought this was the case. His commentary – visual or verbal – often made me laugh.

“I could see myself here,” he started saying – sometimes.

The biggest thing I learned during that time was that we both often left a campus with completely different senses of the place.

“Now THAT was a great school,” I would say as we pulled out of the parking lot. I’d look over to see him shaking his head. “No way, not ever, not going to happen.  I have zero interest in that school.”

And that was my first very important lesson of the college search. Whether it was a relate-able tour guide, the weather on campus that day, what they thought of the dorms or the food in the dining hall, your son or daughter will form an impression. It will often be different from yours, and now is the time to start saying these words, “My opinion doesn’t matter, his does. It’s his journey. It’s his life.”

Of course our opinions matter, and often we can get them to listen (maybe) or rethink that first impression. But I have found that most times, we can’t. It’s all got to feel right to them – starting with that first impression – and whatever that means.

Photo of Brady and his grandfather
Brady graduated in 2013 from his grandfather’s alma mater, Canisius College in Buffalo, NY.