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December 18, 2015, by

In this feature, we present one staffer’s advice on college admissions to guide families through this ever-changing process.

Robert Clark’s guidance for families is based on several years of experience in admissions at Georgetown University, as well as his expertise in working with student-athletes and transfer students.

How has your background at Georgetown University shaped your work with Marks Education students and families?

Because of my experience in different admission positions at Georgetown, I understand the pressures on that side of the desk. Admission committees must quickly and efficiently review applications to get a sense of who the student is and how he or she would fit into the college or university community.

That understanding—not how to get into XYZ school but how would I fit into the community—is what students must highlight for a successful college application.

All schools discuss fit for that reason. A student is probably qualified, but how will she contribute to the community? Families and students need to understand the admissions officers’ “quick read” to highlight how they will contribute.

You’ve developed a specialty in working with students and families who are doing sports recruiting. What should families know ahead of time if their child is an athlete and playing college sports is an option?

Athletic recruiting is one piece of the admissions puzzle. Schools want to field strong teams, but they also want to know how an athlete will fit on their campus. Athletes still need to present a strong application.

Being an athlete is not a free pass. Athletes still need good essays. They need to reassure the admission committee that they will contribute to the community.

Families and students should consider: “How much of the college experience do you want to be consumed by sports?” This question might steer them in college choices. Playing a sport at a top-level Division I school is much different from playing a sport at a small, Division III school.

To get started with recruitment, students should talk with their current coaches about their desire to play sports in college. The coach can provide guidance to the student about his or her level of play. In addition, the coach may have contacts at the college level and knowledge of showcases that will help a student get noticed by college coaches.

But athletic skill is not the only factor. Students should remember that the coach will also be recommending them based on character, especially their ability to work as a team player.

You’ve also done a lot of work with transfer students. What do you like about this work and what advice would you like to offer to families?

I love the diversity of the students I work with—they can be transferring for any number of reasons and circumstances. Many students who are transferring bring a deeper level of maturity and self-knowledge to this process, as they are older and now know what college life is like.

Overall, my advice for families considering the transfer process is to slow down and really think about fit and community. What does the current institution lack and what are the expectations about what the new institution will offer?

How is the admissions and counseling landscape changing right now?

As with everything, the field of admissions is in constant flux—be it standardized tests or the application itself.

Just this year, we saw adjustments to the ACT and the redesign of the SAT. Not only are the tests themselves changing, but we’ve also seen a number of schools adopt test-optional or test-flexible policies.

We continue to see the rise in application numbers across the country. This year, Tulane joined the Common Application and saw a 20% increase in applicants. The Coalition for Access, Affordability, and Success—a group of 89 leading colleges and universities—announced a new application platform that will become available in 2016. We are still waiting for the full details of the system, so it remains to be seen how this will impact the admissions process.

All of this is to say that there are often changes in process and policies. It is important to be as informed as possible.

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