July 26, 2012


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By Kathryn Kopchik

LEWISBURG, Pa. — Many high school seniors will attend a college they've never heard of a year before they apply... and that's a good thing, according to Rob Springall, dean of admissions at Bucknell University.

"It's a good thing because it shows that they did their research into all possibilities, instead of assuming they'll attend the school closest to their home or the one their parents attended. They may discover an unknown place, research it, and find it's very appropriate for them," said Springall.

Helping students learn the process to find the best possible fit was the focus of a daylong workshop at Bucknell recently. Nearly 40 high school seniors and their families from the surrounding area were informed about what they should be doing during the application process.

Chrissy Findlay, assistant dean of admissions, presented an overview of general information for what high school seniors should be doing when. Among her suggestions were to visit schools "in rural, suburban and urban areas, to get a feel for a variety of campuses.

"You also need to own your process," she said, "and don't put it on your parents nor counselors. Find your voice, and use it."

"Applying to colleges is a complicated, unknown, and stressful process, especially for families facing it for the first time," said Lana Bird, assistant director of admissions. "Our goal was to empower local students and parents by providing information on how to prepare for and what to expect in different stages of the process."

One daunting task in the application process is the college essay, according to Bird. "One session aimed at helping students look at it as more of a great opportunity to set themselves apart in the competition and increase the chances of being admitted. Students were advised to use one of the most memorable, uplifting and interesting stories from their lives, and were given excerpts from essays of students who applied to Bucknell this past year as examples of effective writing."

Students and parents also read three fictional student applications to a fictional Red Brick University and were tasked with admitting only one because of limited space. "The goal was to offer families some sort of transparency about how decisions are made by admissions committees and help understand why their son or daughter, though academically qualified, may not be admitted by some schools on their lists," said Bird.

"We hosted a similar workshop last year to offer more general guidance to our communities, especially families in this immediate area," said Springall. "This year's workshop included a College Fair with representatives from eight other colleges in the region."

Springall noted that College Fairs are usually held in the late fall, so this summer session offered an earlier opportunity for students to gather information. Bucknell will host the Susquehanna Valley School Counselors Association night Sept. 8 from 6:30 to 8 p.m. in the Gerhard Fieldhouse.

In addition to several members of the Bucknell admissions staff, representatives from the University's Office of Financial Aid were present to offer advice, said Springall. "We discussed the basic steps of a college search process and explained the financial aid process as well as tips on how to be a successful applicant to any college," he said.

With the sluggish economy, many parents are even more concerned about paying for their child's education. The Federal government has developed a net price calculator as a starting point. About half of the students at Buckell receive institutional financial aid, and about two-thirds receive financial aid of some form.

"These high school seniors will retire in the year 2065, which means roughly 50 years of being a happy and contributing member of society," said Springall. "The best way to ensure a happy and successful life is choosing the right college, one where each senior will fit and thrive."

Contact: Division of Communications