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Career goals count on college apps

Gerald Bradshaw

Gerald Bradshaw

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Updated: March 23, 2013 6:14AM



Dear Mr. Bradshaw: I am a junior in high school and I know I will face a very competitive class of applicants when I apply to college next fall.

I have a 4.125/4.250 GPA and a 2250 SAT score. I participate in a number of extracurricular activities including football and wrestling, and I am the editor of our school’s literary magazine.

There are 500 students in my class and most of the students who are in the top 5 percent have similar achievements. I am applying to most of the Ivies, Stanford and Berkeley. Is there anything I should know that will enhance my chances of getting into a top college?

Dear Student: You will need to sell yourself in your application and essays. Have clearly stated career goals, because the nation’s top colleges are now bringing in career-services staff to evaluate candidates for admission.

Many students and advisors do not know that admissions officers are increasingly sensitive to the job placement percentage of its graduates. Against a spate of bad publicity surrounding student debt and unemployment, elite colleges are now applying a new category to their admissions criteria: employability.

While most colleges have long considered applicants’ career goals, they rarely sought input from the career services office on whether a particular candidate’s aims were realistic. Many colleges are now asking the career development office to sit in on committee meetings to help assess applicants.

When the economy turned sour a few years ago, schools began to focus on the employability of their applicants. This change comes as prospective students are weighing the potential return on their investment in deciding whether to apply to an expensive Ivy League school or in-state or out-of-state school.

The Ivy League began what is a growing trend among colleges and that is including career development representatives in many of their recruiting functions. They are looking to match student interests with industry needs. For example, for an applicant with a stated interest in becoming a lawyer, they may place greater emphasis on an applicant’s essays. Or they may seek out candidates with strong interviews and leadership potential.

The addition of career development officials helps the admissions committee “think more critically” about borderline candidates. They provide information that helps admissions officers understand which students might be most in demand come graduation.

The result is that some applicants are bumped onto the wait list, while others are plucked from that no man’s land. There is more give and take.

I always recommend that my clients and their families visit the career development office at the colleges they are interested in before talking with admissions. Keep your career goals in mind when you start filling out your applications next fall and you can’t go wrong.



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