Admissions Spotlight Series - College of Idaho

A special thank to Brian Bava for participating in our Admissions Spotlight Series.  Brian is currently the Dean of Enrollment at the College of Idaho.  Joseph Fernandez from Parliament Tutors conducted this interview.
What do you consider the most significant parts of an application, the parts which applicants should prepare the most carefully?
The essay is the most significant part of the application that students have full control over, so it should reflect such attention.  It is a window for admission officers to see into who these young men and women truly are and what it is about them that is unique.  This is their opportunity to help us determine whether or not they will be a good fit in our community and what contributions they will make to the College.
What advice can you offer students in regards to their personal statements?  Perhaps you can offer some shining examples that you have seen in the past.
Be original and don’t be afraid to tell a story.  We read so many essays each year, so we want to read something that is engaging and helps us better understand the applicant.  Some of the best essays I have read have been about personal experiences, or people who made a difference.  We get tired of reading the same essay over and over about scoring the winning goal in the hockey tournament.  Don’t try to write something you think we want to read, write about something you are passionate about.
Is there anything you frequently see on an application that you hope to never see again?
Spelling and grammar errors should be avoided at all costs.  If there are a lot of typos or mistakes it leaves an impression to the reader that you haven’t put in enough time into your application, which may make us feel you really aren’t that interested in our College.
What common pitfalls should applicants be careful to avoid?
When writing your personal statement, don’t abruptly end it because you have his the word limit.  Make sure your essay makes sense and follows and appropriate time-line.  I have read many essays where either the student lost track of what they were trying to say, or they simply ended their essay because they hit the limit.  Personal statements need to be complete.
Are there any myths about the application process which you would like to dispel?
Don’t focus your college choices on acceptance rates.  A much better indicator is how students from your high school fare when applying to the schools you are applying to.
What advice would you give to an applicant with below-average test scores but significant extra-curricular experience?
Visit campus and develop a relationship with the admission counselor so they can be an advocate for you.  Also, take the test again or if you took the SAT take the ACT and see if you perform better.  Many merit scholarships are connected to your test scores, so you should take standardized tests multiple times to make sure you maximize your opportunity for scholarship aid.
Do you frequently have to turn away applicants whom you wish you could admit? If so, what could those applicants do to be admitted?
The students we do turn away tend to be students who have either under-performed in high school and/or on the SAT/ACT.  The best advice we give these applicants is to go to a community college for at least a semester and prove to us that they can handle college level work.
How much faith do you have in the ability of the SAT to predict success at in college?
We have far more experience with the ACT over the SAT, and both have been helpful in placement of students in math and English/writing courses.
What do you look for in a recommendation letter?
I am looking for the recommender to either tell me why the student would be a good fit on our campus or to explain a deficiency we are likely to find in the application.  Also, it is obvious when a letter has been recycled and only the name has been changed.  Also, they don’t need to be a missive – a concise and informative letter is appreciated far more than a multi-page account of the student’s entire academic career.
Joseph Fernandez is an SAT Tutor with Parliament Tutors, a home tutoring service.
collegeofidaho



A special thank to Brian Bava for participating in our Admissions Spotlight Series.  Brian is currently the Dean of Enrollment at the College of Idaho.  Joseph Fernandez from Parliament Tutors conducted this interview. 


What do you consider the most significant parts of an application, the parts which applicants should prepare the most carefully? 
The essay is the most significant part of the application that students have full control over, so it should reflect such attention.  It is a window for admission officers to see into who these young men and women truly are and what it is about them that is unique.  This is their opportunity to help us determine whether or not they will be a good fit in our community and what contributions they will make to the College. 

What advice can you offer students in regards to their personal statements?  
Perhaps you can offer some shining examples that you have seen in the past.  Be original and don’t be afraid to tell a story.  We read so many essays each year, so we want to read something that is engaging and helps us better understand the applicant.  Some of the best essays I have read have been about personal experiences, or people who made a difference.  We get tired of reading the same essay over and over about scoring the winning goal in the hockey tournament.  Don’t try to write something you think we want to read, write about something you are passionate about.

Is there anything you frequently see on an application that you hope to never see again? 
Spelling and grammar errors should be avoided at all costs.  If there are a lot of typos or mistakes it leaves an impression to the reader that you haven’t put in enough time into your application, which may make us feel you really aren’t that interested in our College. 

What common pitfalls should applicants be careful to avoid? 
When writing your personal statement, don’t abruptly end it because you have his the word limit.  Make sure your essay makes sense and follows and appropriate time-line.  I have read many essays where either the student lost track of what they were trying to say, or they simply ended their essay because they hit the limit.  Personal statements need to be complete. 

Are there any myths about the application process which you would like to dispel? 
Don’t focus your college choices on acceptance rates.  A much better indicator is how students from your high school fare when applying to the schools you are applying to. 

What advice would you give to an applicant with below-average test scores but significant extra-curricular experience? 
Visit campus and develop a relationship with the admission counselor so they can be an advocate for you.  Also, take the test again or if you took the SAT take the ACT and see if you perform better.  Many merit scholarships are connected to your test scores, so you should take standardized tests multiple times to make sure you maximize your opportunity for scholarship aid. 

Do you frequently have to turn away applicants whom you wish you could admit?
If so, what could those applicants do to be admitted? The students we do turn away tend to be students who have either under-performed in high school and/or on the SAT/ACT.  The best advice we give these applicants is to go to a community college for at least a semester and prove to us that they can handle college level work. 

How much faith do you have in the ability of the SAT to predict success at in college? 
We have far more experience with the ACT over the SAT, and both have been helpful in placement of students in math and English/writing courses. 

What do you look for in a recommendation letter? 
I am looking for the recommender to either tell me why the student would be a good fit on our campus or to explain a deficiency we are likely to find in the application.  Also, it is obvious when a letter has been recycled and only the name has been changed.  Also, they don’t need to be a missive – a concise and informative letter is appreciated far more than a multi-page account of the student’s entire academic career.

Joseph Fernandez is an SAT Tutor with Parliament Tutors, a home tutoring service.

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