A special thanks to Dean LisaMeyer,
Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid at Lewis and Clark College, for
participating in our Admissions Spotlight Series Joseph Fernandez from Parliament Tutors conducted this interview.
As the Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid, what are your day-to-day responsibilities? One
of the things I most enjoy about my profession is that my
responsibilities greatly vary from day to day and month to month. On a
macro level, fall is devoted to getting the word out about the College.
My staff and I are visiting high schools, interviewing students,
attending college fairs, and generally communicating with as many
interested students as possible. December through March is devoted to
reading admissions applications and creating financial aid awards. In
April, admissions decisions are sent, and the campus hosts visitors who
are making their college choices. Summer allows a little time for
planning, and then we start all over again.
What do you consider the most significant parts of an application, the parts which applicants should prepare the most carefully? The
student's transcript is the most significant factor in an application.
This is not something that can be "prepared" as the student is filing
the application, but what appears on the transcript is certainly driven
by student choices. Many students think that the Admissions Committee
only cares about the grade point average. While a GPA is certainly
calculated, the committee looks closely at the rigor of courses the
student took and the trends in grades (do they steadily go up over the
years, or is this student record on the decline?). One common mistake
on the part of students is to take a very light load during the senior
year. This is the year that will prepare them for their first year in
college. The Admissions Committee wants to know that students will be
ready to do college level work upon their arrival.
Is there anything you frequently see on an application that you hope to never see again? Typos. In a time when Spell Check is as easy as the push of a button, I see no reason for typos. What common pitfalls should applicants be careful to avoid?
Don't try to complete applications at the last minute. This means
writing the college essay in advance, asking someone to proof it, and
revising it as you would an important classroom essay. It also means
thoughtfully answering the application questions, giving your
recommenders enough notice to write something meaningful about you, and
completing the application without errors or omissions.
Are there any myths about the application process which you would like to dispel? There
is no one perfect application that if submitted would guarantee
admission to every college. The admissions process is about finding a
good fit between a student and a college. A student can be a wonderful
person and a great student, but not the right fit for a particular
college or university. Likewise, a college can offer terrific
educational opportunities for many, but not be the right choice for a
What advice would you give to an applicant with below-average test scores but significant extra-curricular experience? Not
everyone will have the "average" test scores for an institution. By
definition, some scores will fall above the average and others below
it. If your scores are within the range of scores found at that
institution, it will be your job to make a case to the Admissions
Committee as to why you should be admitted. Remember, the Committee is
putting a community together, and they are looking for people who will
bring positive influences to the college. Your strengths might lie in
your extra-curricular experiences. Make certain to outline these
experiences in your application. You may choose to write about one or
more of them in your application so the Admissions Committee will
understand how they have prepared you to be a positive contributor to
college life. Your application is your opportunity to share who you are
and what you bring to the college. Make the effort to make your case.
Do you frequently have to turn away applicants whom you wish you
could admit? If so, what could those applicants do to be admitted? Nobody
enjoys denying admission to an applicant, but that is certainly part of
the job. Most often, the students I have to turn away are those who
have not prepared themselves for the rigors of my college. This is
demonstrated in the courses in which they enrolled, their grades, their
writing samples, and myriad other factors. As I stated above, really
good people are not always a really good match for every college. Take
the time in your application to present yourself in the best light and
allow the admissions process to unfold. Even if you are not admitted to
one particular college, chances are good you will find another match.
How much faith do you have in the ability of the SAT to predict success at in college? The
SAT is only one of many factors considered in an admissions
application. It is a measure that can be used to compare students who
are applying from very different high schools from across the country.
When I look at a student's SAT score, I look for a score that makes
sense given the other pieces of the application. Does this score seem
congruent with the grades this student has received? Is this score in
accordance with the kinds of scores produced by this high school? If
the SAT score
seems reasonable given these other factors, I'll move on to looking at
other elements of the application. If the scores seem discordant, I am
likely to look for more information. That information may come from a
counselor recommendation, a note from the student, or a comment by a
teacher. Remember, the test score is not the sole factor used in making
admissions decisions. It was not designed for this purpose, and it
would not be wise to expect any one score to predict college success.
What do you look for in a recommendation letter? The
recommendation gives the Admissions Committee insight into the
intellectual development and character of a student. Recommendations
often help us to understand how a student has developed over the years,
what ways he or she contributes to the classroom experience, and how he
or she adds to the intellectual and community environment at the
school. Letters of recommendation are an important tool in better
understanding the applicant's strengths and challenges.