Millbrook's College Process: Personal and Authentic

Millbrook's annual College Counseling program for Vth form families, held at the start of Fall Family Weekend, was once again an informative introduction to the college process made all the more relevant and timely thanks to guest panelists from highly competitive colleges and universities.

Director of College Counseling Shannon Vollmer brought her expertise to the lectern as the moderator of a three-hour information session that explored the current state of college admissions and Millbrook's highly individualized college process. Shannon was joined by her colleagues Sr. Associate Director Emily Allen and Associate Director Taylor Pirie plus guest panelists from American University and Wake Forest University, Assistant Vice Provost Jeremy Lowe and Dean of Admissions Karen Vargas. Erin Burnett, associate director of admission at Dartmouth College, unfortunately had to cancel due to illness, but she shared some words of wisdom remotely.

Highlights and takeaways from the college admission directors include:

College Application Trends and Notes
  1. There are more early decision and early action applications than ever before.
  2. There are growing numbers of applications without test scores. Colleges do not hold it against an applicant if they do not submit scores.
  3. It's especially important for an application to demonstrate how a student engages within their community - locally and globally - which predicts how they will interact within their college community.
How Colleges Decide/Build a Class
  1. They confirm from the application that a student is academically ready for college (grades plus rigor of courses)
  2. They learn more about who the student is and why they want to be at a given college via their essay and optional supplemental essay(s)
  3. They consider geographical representation and distribution of academic interest
  4. They consider affordability and completed financial aid requests based on a family's resources
  5. They consider how a student will help build community within their college or university
  6. Their process is holistic, as they consider character and curiosity; success looks different for students at different schools. 
How Colleges Evaluate an Applicant's Interest
  1. Student completes online programs offered by the college.
  2. A student Interviews and/or visits campus.
  3. A student applies early decision or early action.

Millbrook's college counselors begin to get to know students as soon as they enroll at Millbrook, and they work with students at every grade level. Shannon Vollmer shared more about the process as students enter their Vth form year:
  1. Millbrook's process is completely student-centered with the smallest ratio of student-to-counselor of any independent or public school (30 to 1)
  2. Millbrook's college counselors work through the entire process from start to finish with each student, emphasizing the following in the application process:
    1. Involvement in activities is good - it doesn't have to be all about leadership.
    2. Quality is more important than quantity.
    3. An application should demonstrate how a student has developed/evolved in high school.
    4. Letters of recommendation from teachers are important ways to impart additional or clarifying information
    5. Authenticity is key!
Shannon concluded by reviewing how current Vth formers should begin to curate their initial college list:
  1. Visit schools close to home initially to see what different colleges and universities are like.
  2. Visit schools outside a region outside your initial preferred area. Shape your understanding of how your list can grow.
  3. Eliminate schools based on what you know you don't want.
  4. Understand the difference between a stretch school and a school that is out of reach - it must be a right fit in terms of acceptance rates as they apply to you.
  5. Don't compare apples and oranges - understand each school for what it is and is not.

Students and parents left the program feeling more informed and more confident about diving into a process that must ultimately be student-driven and completely unique and authentic for each individual.
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