Parents and Students Learn About The Admissions Game


by Christine Wenzel, parent

This week, our University Counseling Department hosted Peter Van Buskirk, a dynamic motivational speaker and founder of The Admission Game. His credentials are impressive, with over 25 years experience in the selective college admission process. Selective is the key word. Mr. Van Buskirk used it often.

His goal was to help us understand the behind-the-scenes process of university admission. Although his attention was focused on universities in the United States, students applying in Canada were also able to find relevant direction from his advice.

From a parent’s point of view, here are six of the highlights I noted.

1) The student has to find the right fit for them. He joked about being a “helicopter parent”, hovering over his children. When you have the experience and knowledge the temptation to guide is great, but itʼs part of the growing up and letting go process for students to make their own choices (and itʼs a tough one).

“The objective method found in the more selective schools (think Ivy League) looks more at scores and grades.”

2) Approaches to university admission fall into two categories: the holistic process and the objective process. The holistic method looks at the whole candidate profile. The objective method found in the more selective schools (think Ivy League) looks more at scores and grades.

3) Faculty and Admissions have a strong relationship. Professors talk often with Admissions and their wish list includes bright, motivated, high achievers and evidence of diversity.

4) Diversity isnʼt exclusive to ethnic background. It includes young scholars who are different from each other, have different interests and thoughts.

5) Demonstrated interest in the school(s) of your choice gives you an extra edge. Establish a rapport with the recruiter who comes to your school. Make sure you fill out the presentation card. This is the start of your file, showing you made the effort to attend and learn more about their school. In Mr. Van Buskirkʼs words, “Donʼt be a ghost applicant.”

6) If you are worried something doesnʼt look as strong on your application as you would like, or it doesnʼt reflect your best effort and you would like the opportunity to explain why, then take the time to do it. There is a place on the application for this purpose.

Mr. Van Buskirkʼs enthusiasm for sharing his knowledge and his way of engaging the audience to participate made his two-and-a-half-hour presentation go by in a flash.

Ultimately, a student needs to ask themselves two questions: 1) Why do you want to go to university? 2) What three things do you want to accomplish by the time you finish?

At the end, he summed up his final words of advice to the students with five points:

1) Know yourself
2) Know what youʼre getting into in the process
3) Make good choices
4) Tell your story; connect the dots
5) Believe in you

If you missed the opportunity to attend, Peter Van Buskirk has published a book and you can also subscribe to his blog.


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