What's an Admissions Angle?
It’s no secret that the college admissions process is competitive. When a high school student is deciding on how to best spend their time on courses, extracurricular activities, tests, and community involvement, it’s important to spend it in a cohesive and efficient manner, one that centers around an Admissions Angle.
By ALEX LOVELESS
The college admissions process gets more competitive every year. While the number of applications has finally started to top out and actually start declining, the quality of these applications – especially at the top institutions – has continued to rise. We see it in the news with reports of celebrities buying off admissions officers or cheating scandals on the SAT or ACT exams. The admissions strategies of 10 years ago are mostly obsolete and unfortunately, an arms race has started between parents of high school students, resulting in the boom of the independent educational consulting field.
Traditional guidance counseling just doesn’t cut it for high schoolers anymore, and it’s not the fault of the counselors. On average, a single public school guidance counselor is responsible for providing college admissions advice for about 482 students. This equates to only 38 minutes of guidance time over the course of four years. This is simply not enough. At the Admissions Angle, we provide our students with the time and attention they need to craft a compelling college admissions narrative. What does that look like you ask? Well, we use something called an Admissions Angle.
“The admissions strategies of 10 years ago are mostly obsolete and unfortunately, an arms race has started between parents of high school students”
What's an Admissions Angle?
The Admissions Angle is at the core of our college admissions philosophy and its primary purpose is to help a student to stand out from the rest of the applicant pool. Essentially, it advocates for depth of expertise and interest in a few areas rather than a shallow understanding of many areas. Depth over breadth.
We know that the best way to be forgotten by an admissions officer is to come off as “well-balanced”, which is just a nicer way of saying unfocused. Well-balanced students have a number of problems in their academic profile: 1) Lack of cohesion in their courses/extracurricular choices. 2) Lack of time spent in a single activity/project to make a meaningful impact/achievement. 3) Lack of self-awareness of who they are or what mark they want to leave on the world.
The best way to avoid this “well-balanced” trap is to create an Admissions Angle, and any effective Angle meets three criteria:
1) Something with admissions value
2) Something the student is good at (talent)
3) Something the student loves (passion)
Without all three criteria, Admissions Angles can be unappealing (passion + talent) like focusing on a rock band, unsupported (passion + admissions value) like many student-athletes, or uninspired (talent + admissions value) like playing music can come off as for a lot of students.
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How do I craft an Admissions Angle?
When forming these Angles, it’s also important to consider the background of the student and the inherent biases that admissions officers will have against them. For example, I’ve worked with plenty of Asian or Asian-American males who want to apply for STEM majors. They often play piano, have coding skills, and love to play video games. An effective Admissions Angle breaks the admissions profile stereotypes – by finding and encouraging less stereotypical interests like art – without ignoring the strengths of the student, which in this case would be a love for coding.
For young students in middle school, 9th, or early 10th grade, we take our time to really get to know a student and craft the perfect Angle. The first decision to make would be to at least narrow down a student’s interest into either 1) STEM, 2) the humanities, or 3) business/entrepreneurship. While this isn’t the entire list of possible directions a student can go, it represents most of them. If a young student can even just narrow down their interests to one category, like STEM, you can encourage a student to pursue any math-related activities or competitions that will support just about any kind of STEM Admissions Angle. For the humanities, you can start students with writing-related activities like creative writing, among others.
Once an Angle is chosen, they can be supported in a variety of ways, but generally they’re supported by a student’s transcript, their extracurricular activities, and their achievements. At the end of the process, the student’s college essays will give purpose and direction to all of these choices and humanize the motivations behind their choices in high school. An Admissions Angle helps a student stand out through the focus and cohesion that it provides.
If you take anything away from this article, remember that it’s never too early to start thinking about a college admissions strategy.