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Fiske Guide to Getting into the Right College
This ultimate admissions guidebook shows you how to get into the college that's best for you. It offers advice and information on each part of the application and admission process, including selecting your top choices, interviewing, letters of recommendation and securing the best financial aid. A complement to the Fiske Guide to Colleges, this volume takes students and parents step-by-step through the college-admission process all the way to success. It tells you: How to choose the right college How to write winning essays How admissions offices really rank applicants How to interview successfully.
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June 30, 2007
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Excerpt from Fiske Guide to Getting into the Right College by Edward Fiske
The college advising office in your high school can be a pretty intimidating place, especially on your first visit. An eerie silence pervades the room. As you cross the threshold and survey the scene, your eye catches the twelfth-grade boy who used to flick spitballs into your hair from the back of the bus when you were in middle school. He's still wearing the same flea-bitten Metallica T-shirt, but now his nose is buried in a college guide as he scribbles feverishly in a spiral notebook. On the other side of the room, the girl from down the street with the doting mother and the 4.0 grade point average is staring purposefully into a computer screen, clacking the keyboard every few seconds as she calls up a new file. Suddenly, you get a sinking feeling that she and all the other kids in the room know exactly what they're doing. You're the only one who doesn't have a clue. Of course, you could always ask Mrs. Stonebreaker for help. That is, if you don't mind the familiar glasses-on-the-end-of-the-nose routine and the icy stare that says you've just asked the stupidest question of her thirty-four-year career. You want to beat a hasty retreat and come back later--much later.
It's no wonder that beginning college applicants often get the strong urge to run away and hide. Talk about an intimidating situation! Many students have barely gotten comfortable in high school before the college search looms ominously on the horizon. Rumblings about "selective colleges" and "the job market" begin to pop up in dinner conversations and guidance office bulletin boards. Friends who used to be party animals suddenly begin to hit the books and talk about "getting the grades for college." Relatives you haven't seen in years marvel about how much you've grown--and then want to know all about your career plans.
As if those storm clouds weren't threatening enough, there is the little matter of finding one college out of about twenty-two hundred four-year schools in the nation. They come in more flavors than Baskin-Robbins or Ben and Jerry ever dreamed of making--large, small, middle-sized, rural, urban, and a thousand permutations. If colleges were ice cream, a student could sample four or five flavors and make a choice. Unfortunately, college applicants must get it right the first time or go through the same agony again when they transfer. How can you figure out what sort of college is right for you?
One place you won't find the answer is your mailbox, which, if you have checked a certain oval on your PSAT exam, has become a direct pipeline to the propaganda factories of colleges coast to coast. Though the deluge of college mail can be highly entertaining, every school from Harvard to Ho Hum U. advertises a similar bill of goods. If you were confused before, try figuring out the difference between two colleges by reading the glossy viewbooks. The scenes in their pages are always the same: eager hordes of racially diverse undergraduates thinking deep thoughts or frolicking in a perpetual spring against a backdrop of white columns and grassy lawns. Let's see now...College X offers "academic excellence" and "rich diversity." On the other hand, College Y offers "rich diversity" and "academic excellence." Still can't tell the difference?
Meanwhile, all the adults in your life (and a few you've never seen before) offer their two cents about where you should go to school. From your grandfather, you get the latest updates on colleges and the job market from U.S. News & World Report. Mom says that you can choose any school you want--as long as you stay within fifty miles of home. Even your great uncle Pete, whom you barely know, takes you under his wing and says he has the perfect college for you based on his wonderful experience in the early 1950s.