The most common questions asked by college applicants

College application season is in its full swing, and parents are just as anxious (sometimes more anxious) about where their children end up.  I volunteer for my alma mater to interview applicants, and it seems like every year there are more students applying.

What is awe-inspiring about meeting these brilliant kids applying for college is that so many of them are so determined to make a difference in the world. At their age, I was simply trying to get good grades and follow the rules. In retrospect, I was not mature enough (or did not have the advice) to realize that understanding the rules is only but a small part of the big picture.

The application process is just as interesting to me as it is nerve-wracking for the students.  I find that the questions asked are the most entertaining. I would stratify them in three categories:

Generic but sincere 

These are the questions that I would’ve asked when I was in high school. I’d say that the majority of what I am asked fall into this category.

“What did you like the best about college?”

“What do you think helps College X stand out from the rest?”

“Does College X have Major Y or Club Z?”

There is nothing wrong about any of these questions. If I had to make any criticism of them, it would be that the answer to half of these questions could probably be found on the college website.  The other half of them are questions that I, as an alum, should hopefully be able to reflect upon and provide my opinion.  I enjoy being asked these questions, because they actually help me recall both the great experiences as well as those I wished I could wipe from my memory.

Thought-provoking questions

I’d categorize these questions as relatively thought provoking questions that had stumped me when they were first asked. Over time, I’ve come to find a satisfactory answer for my applicants, but certainly these are questions that have often triggered further questions.

“If you had to do it over again, would you have attended College X?”

“What did you regret about college?” or “What did you regret about attending College X?”

As an honest answer to myself, it really doesn’t matter to me at this point if I regretted going to college, because there is a very low likelihood that I’d ever “repeat” college. Sure, if I had made different decisions, maybe learned a little bit more about handling my money a little better earlier in life, I might not have even entered a career in medicine.

Questions that should not be asked 

Rarely, some questions I am asked are far out in left field. These are the ones that be no means should I know the answer to or should be asked in public. I suppose that the students that ask the most bold questions are the ones that get furthest in life.

Last week, one applicant digressed into a discussion about alumni donations. One student casually brought it up:

Applicant: I heard that college are always looking for funding.

Me: [silent]

Applicant: My father’s donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to College X

Me: [silent]

This came after a lengthy discussion of the Model UN club that he was a participant in. In all fairness, I’ve learned not to dismiss speculation or questions that I don’t know the answer to. Maybe if you donated several million dollars to a school, your heirs would get accepted?

Good luck to all college applicants in 2018!

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