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Lee Capristo
Director of Publications
Email: lwcapristo@smcm.edu
Anne Arundel 100

Admissions Answers your Questions

Written by Admissions staff

Photo by Barbara Woodel

Below, staff from the St. Mary's College of Maryland Admissions Office tackle some of the more common questions high school students and their parents ask about the college application process:

Question: Is applying the earlier the better generally good advice?
Students should apply early decision only if they feel like that school is the only school they want to attend. When students apply early decision, they are bound to that school if they are accepted, meaning they must withdraw their applications from other institutions. If a student applies early decision, and he or she is not accepted at that time, then we put them in the regular decision pool. The nice thing about early decision is that if you are accepted, you know where you are going months before most people! St. Mary's has two early decision dates, November 1 and December 1. Students are informed within a month if they have been accepted or denied. Regular decision applications are due January 1 and we inform those students of our decision on or before April 1st.  - Tricia Realbuto, assistant admissions director

Q: What is the most important part of the application process? What do you look for?
The best predictor of student success is taking a broad look at the high school years. If students challenge themselves by taking progressively tougher classes as they go through high school and are successful in them, then they should have a successful academic experience wherever they go. Colleges like to see students increasing their coursework rigor, such as taking honors, gifted and talented, advance placement, scholars-level classes, etc. Most high schools will send a school profi le that will show admissions counselors the level of coursework that is available to students at a particular high school. Then, through the high school transcript, we can see how much students challenged themselves at that school.  - Ben Toll '07, assistant admissions director

Q: What is the parents' role in the application process? Why is it stressful for them?
Parents wear several hats in the application process, so it can be a bit stressful at times. They are guidance counselors, chauffeurs, secretaries, and financiers. Some parents are college graduates, others are not. Working with vibrant, active young people, who have very full schedules these days, in and of itself is challenging. Several things can help parents minimize the stress and make the process more relaxing and enjoyable: One is to utilize all resources, such as web sites, career center staff in your high school, and friends and family. Second is to be proactive, encouraging your kids to sign up for college visits in advance. A visit is the most important thing a parent can make happen in the process. It determines whether a school will remain on the radar or not, and saves a lot of time later on. A list of questions to be answered at each visit will help provide uniformity and fairness to the selection. Thirdly, aim for organization, even if this is not one of your child's strong points. Part of the stress comes from fear of missed deadlines. Every college is different and when your child is applying to four to six schools, the paperwork flow must be organized. Lastly, it is hard to de-stress the entire process, but parents should stick to encouraging, motivating, and providing input. Don't take over the process. Yes, then the main brunt of the pressure will fall on the students' shoulders, but by this time in their lives they can handle the consequences of their action or inaction. They need to have responsibility for the outcome; it also gives the parents some space to stand back and watch as their kids navigate the path to their next new "home." - Loretta Cook '84, assistant admissions director 

Q: How important is the admissions essay in the application process?
The essay is an essential piece of the admissions process. We place as much importance on it as we do the transcript or co-curricular résumé. There are plenty of students who have good grades and SAT/ACT scores; however, no two essays are the same. Diversity is very important to us and all these pieces come into play when we carefully develop our first-year class. The essay serves as the applicant's opportunity to differentiate him or herself. Our essay questions are unique. My favorite one this year is "The director of admissions is coming to dinner! Whom would you invite, past or present? What topics would you discuss over dinner? What would you serve your guests?" This question gives students the chance to show us what is really important to them, who has influenced them in their lives, and even what kinds of foods they enjoy. The best advice I can give students when they are doing their essay is to put a signifi cant amount of effort towards it and to be yourself. - Calvin Wise '09,
admissions counselor 

Cartoon was one unique essay sent by a successful applicant.