A year's worth of tips to help those headed for college; 'It's hard work -- but remember -- you are judging them too!'

Dear Margie About colleges: Here's a year's worth of condensed tips to help you get in. 1. Explore the college BEFORE the interview. Know a bit about the place, and WHY you like it. Check out Barron's Guide to Northeast Colleges (very informative) [Editor's note: See other Barron's guides for different geographical areas], Lovejoy's (not so good), and Insider's Guide to Colleges (the bible of them all). About "Insider's," out of print -- check library.

2. Also look into a book called "Getting In" (paperback). Check library. It's FULL of helpful hints.

3. In an interview with a college admissions official:

A. Firm handshake ALWAYS, even if you have to take the initiative. This really makes an impression.

B. Look really pleased to be there and to meet said person (even if you feel queasy). Smile sincerely, but professionally (Farrah Fawcett is definitely out). Be serious most of the time when talking.

C. Stay in control of yourself. Lean back; relax. Elbows resting on arms of chair looks more confident. Legs crossed, hands on chair or in lap.

D. Memorize beforehand:

-- spring term grades and courses

-- AP scores

-- SAT scores

-- achievement scores

-- activities in 10th and 11th grades (including your numerous plays and recitals). Also remember topics of major research papers. Believe it or not, in my Smith interview (my worst one!) I actually forgot the subject of my big history paper!

E. Be prepared to answer questions like these:

-- "Do YOU want to go here or is your dad pushing you?" (for Williams).

-- "What is it about this school that you like?" (Always, always asked.)

-- And in so many words, "What is it about you that is special? Why are you worth considering?" Bring this up if they don't -- this is a crucial point. Leadership roles are a major factor here. Mention -- play up -- your tutoring, chapel council, student guiding, Blue Key. [Editor's note: Acceptee at Dartmouth insists that "only way to get in is to sell yourself -- hard sell all the way."]

-- Athletics: Play up your ballet experience! Don't be afraid to use jargon if you briefly explain it -- it sounds impressive. Men, particularly, tend to pooh-pooh this sport, so this is no time to be modest.

-- "Do you like Andover? Why?" Don't complain much here or they'll think you are not a positive, i.e., contributing, student.

-- "Do you like boarding? Why?" Again, don't complain about boarding per se -- you'll be boarding at college.

4. Questions you might ask (remember to do your homework beforehand or you'll come off as not being seriously interested in the school):

-- "Tell me about your theater/ballet/art/choral/premed/etc. program."

-- "Tell me about your Jan Plan."

-- "Do you have many students here from Andover?" (for a small school like Colby or Connecticut College).

-- "Describe your junior year abroad program, please."

-- "Would you tell me about cultural/social activities at this college?"

5. ALWAYS get a tour, even if you know the school well (unless you absolutely detest the place). [Editor's note: We know a young friend who refused to get out of the car at the entrance to the college of his father's choice.]

Why the tour? It shows interest. Try to get the tour BEFORE your interview -- you'll be better prepared then for the interview.

6. Questions to ask of tour guides:

-- "Do they like it?" (Occasionally you'll find a student who doesn't and it can be helpful to find out why.)

-- "What's dorm life like? Quiet? Noisy?

-- "How are male-female relationships -- good?

-- "Is social life good? Bad?

-- "Drinking? Drugs? How much? How often? Any pressure? (Watch it! You'll really have to push to get a straight answer.)

-- "What about academics: How much work? How many hours per night? Weekends , too? Professors, good? Available? Friendly? (Push on this, too.)

-- "Strong and weak departments." (Don't let them get away with a pat answer).

-- "Food: Lousy? Good? Average?"

7. Sense the atmosphere -- and especially talk with other students.

8. Spend some time at the library and in a dorm (preferably coed) and in a social center. Dorms will give you an honest picture of the college. Kids there will be brutally candid. It should be mandatory to spend at least an hour at a dorm (preferably a night).

That's about it. Why don't you save this letter for future reference?

Oh, one more thing: Relax. Remember, you are judging them, too.

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