By Vared Shmuler (IV)

As many Pingry students may have observed, parents across the country are fascinated by the book Who Gets in and Why: A Year Inside College Admissions by Jeffrey Selingo. The book offers a thorough and informative explanation of the process of “holistic admissions,” in which American universities consider the applicant as a whole person. Selingo’s book also shares the current nuances of college admissions, and how students can begin to address the challenges of the process. Not only does this book communicate the complexities of college admissions, but it also provides insight and advice for aspiring underclassmen.

A section of the book that offers explicit advice for high school students explores the admissions process at Emory University. Within this section, Selingo writes about holistic admissions and the facets of an application that push the needle in favor of an acceptance letter. For example, a student who aspires to pursue a major in natural sciences should be enrolled in Advanced Placement courses as well as Honors classes and excel in both. Selingo offers this tip: “The applicant’s course load [should consist] of an abundance of math and science courses that are necessary for this major.” 

On the flip side, if an applicant received several subpar grades in generally easy classes, the admissions committee might hesitate to accept the applicant. One applicant’s course load was exemplary, and her display of interest in the field of work was a genuine representation of her intentions if accepted to the university. However, her record displayed several mediocre grades, so she ultimately received a rejection letter. This instance of rejection shows that four years in high school, inclusive of stellar interest and challenging courses, can be erased in minutes based on grades.

Pingry students are taught to achieve grades of the highest caliber in all subjects. Although Pingry does value sports programs and the arts, they are not the main focus. However, an academically-focused school could restrict students from pursuing their interests until the last half of high school. This may not be the best way to satisfy the expectations of a holistic admissions reading – rather, it completes only a few of the implicit requirements. 

So, what can Pingry students do to strive towards college acceptances? Here are a few steps to take to best prepare. First, they should recognize that college is on the horizon. With this in mind, the students should build a general understanding of their interests and determine what college majors best fit those interests. Second, Selingo recommends that students structure a schedule of classes that reflects those interests. Also, they should take advantage of the resources and opportunities that are available at Pingry, such as advising and the College Counseling department. Lastly, and most importantly, students should be their best selves. 

Instead of molding oneself to a college, a student should do what they enjoy. College admissions officers will generally not accept students who take a myriad of classes with no other purpose than to look good on an application. If one is interested in art, they should take one of Pingry’s many art programs. If one is interested in economics and the business world, they should join a club or take a class that shows that interest. Furthermore, students should not only choose relevant courses inside of Pingry, but also engage in extracurricular activities outside of school that correspond with their fields of interest. In doing so, they can further expand their knowledge and opportunities. 

In summary, by acknowledging the prospect of college in the early years of high school, choosing an area of interest that one is passionate about, and choosing courses of interest to surround yourself with, a student will fulfill their holistic application and broaden their college options and future successes.