Case Studies

4 Key Takeaways From Former Admissions Officer of Harvard, Brown and Phillips Exeter Academy

Meet Thomas Hassan, former Principal and Admissions Director of Phillip’s Exeter Academy, and former admissions officer at Harvard and Brown. Aegis Advisors was honored to host Thomas in Hong Kong on Feb 15-17. Together with our Directors, Dan Chen and Cindy Hah, Thomas shared invaluable insights with over 100 parents on the U.S. university and boarding school admissions process. Here are a few key takeaways:

Despite how crazy the admissions process and competition have gotten, the fundamentals of what matters haven’t changed.

Record-low acceptance rates has fuelled record-high intensity for parents and students during the preparation process. Many families have been misled to believe that in order to get accepted at a top university, you must take as many AP’s as possible, win as many awards as possible, be outstanding in many things, and be president of a dozen clubs. But while admissions do look at these factors, what they are really looking for is your child’s voice — what matters to them and how have they pursued it? How has your child spent his/her middle school or high school years? Has s/he been actively involved inside and outside of school? What interests has s/he explored? Which are his/her key interests and what has s/he done to pursue them? Putting the focus back on what’s best for your child will be far more rewarding than just focusing on what schools want or what other students have achieved.

Schools used to look for well-rounded students. Now they are now looking for a well-rounded student body.

Your child really does not need to be great at everything! So stop wasting time, money and energy trying to get your child to master skills s/he hates. Instead, spend quality time exploring, identify your child’s key interests, and encourage him/her to pursue them. Schools are looking to form diverse communities full of talents — academics. art, music, sports, service, and more — your child will most definitely contribute best in areas that s/he’s interested in.

Scores are the first thing schools look at so make sure you have them. But don’t just stop there. School grades and standardised test scores are the first things admissions look at when reviewing applicants. While SAT/ACT scores are useful to understand the child’s achievements in relation to other students, school grades show the student’s academic performance over time. Having the scores are important for sure, but students who spend 99% of their time studying are going down the wrong track. Once the student is “smart enough”, it is the other parts of the applications (i.e. extra-curricular activities profile, essays, interviews, recommendations, etc) that eventually make or break an application.

Scores are the first thing schools look at so make sure you have them. But don’t just stop there.

School grades and standardised test scores are the first things admissions look at when reviewing applicants. While SAT/ACT scores are useful to understand the child’s achievements in relation to other students, school grades show the student’s academic performance over time. Having the scores are important for sure, but students who spend 99% of their time studying are going down the wrong track. Once the student is “smart enough”, it is the other parts of the applications (i.e. extra-curricular activities profile, essays, interviews, recommendations, etc) that eventually make or break an application.

Know what you’re doing, or work with people who do.

The boarding school and university application processes are very complicated. But what’s more alarming is the amount of misinformation floating around, leading families to invest their valuable time, money and energy on the wrong things with little ROI on admissions. It’s important to properly understand the process and ensure that each step you take as a family makes sense towards your overall education and admissions goals. Getting help from people who know what they are doing, and are abreast of the industry, can make life less stressful, but reap better admissions results.

 

This article was originally published as “4 Key Takeaways from Former Admissions Officer of Harvard, Brown, and Phillips Exeter Academy” on SCMP Education Post.

Cindy

Cindy

U.S. Advisor & Athletic Recruitment

Princeton, HKIS

Cindy’s Story

Cindy graduated from Princeton University, where she received a Bachelor of Arts in History and East Asian Studies. She was also a letter-winner on Princeton's NCAA Division I Varsity Tennis Team. Cindy was formerly an active member of the Princeton Alumni Representative Committee and interviewed students for admissions.

Prior to Princeton, Cindy attended Hong Kong International School and was a top player on the Hong Kong National Tennis Team. She has over ten years of experience in U.S. boarding school and undergraduate admissions, and also has expertise in student athlete recruitment.

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