Joyce Slayton Mitchell has a secret. Actually she probably has more than several books’ worth but there is one in particular I want her to share with me. How does she do it? By it I mean all the things she does. For most in the world of education and selective admission you have heard of Joyce as many may have read at least some of her books. Those who have not should. She’s been publishing books since the 1970’s. The topics range from finding the best pastries in Paris, to surviving Chemo, to a large number of books on her most significant area of expertise: selective admission to US schools. Joyce has worked in education for many years including serving as the college counselor for one of the top private schools in New York. She has serves as a speaker on innumerable panels at conferences around the world. She has, somewhat recently, turned her attention and expertise to international admission. Her books on helping students from India, Vietnam, Korea, China as well as a book for all: “8 First Choices: An Expert’s Strategies for Getting into College” provide invaluable information for families, students and educators.
She travels the world visit schools and giving presentations. She is, without a doubt, one of the leading experts in the field. I ma honored then that she has taken the time between writing editorials for her local paper, jetting back and forth across continents to answer some of my questions here. I think after reading her words you will agree that she is open, honest and does not worry about saying things that should be said. Her reputation an experience and personality all make her one to speak her mind. We are the lucky beneficiaries. Some of the comments from the highest profile deans of Admission at highly selective colleges and universities attest you are one of the world’s experts on education and admission around the globe. While I wish I could ask all the questions I have, I do want to focus on a few areas that have come up recently in conferences, stories in major publications, and on website groups of counselors and educators.
My questions focus, then, mostly on international students but much of what you will say, does, I think, apply to any student. I’d like to start with what I’d call the 7 pillars of wisdom. 1. Choose many favorite colleges. The point is to start out by scanning about 350 colleges (Fiske guide Insiders guide, for example) and then researching about 20 colleges, selecting 8-10 colleges for final list. On the final list – DO NOT PRIORITIZE that college list to which you are going to apply. Prioritizing closes minds. I am not an early fan, even though ED is probably appropriate for about 10% of all applicants. 2. You are in charge. Asian students seem to think it’s best to have an outside of school agent or business or “helper” to write their applications and essays. Their application will be a lot more interesting to the US college deans if it is their own voice, the voice of a Chinese 17 or 18 year old. 3. Make a friend of your advocates.
This is basically a U.S. 4. SATs, IELTS, and TOEFL won’t get you in. 5. The college market is not a tight market. Sure, the top 25 US colleges and universities are a tight market- simple economics- supply and demand. We also have 2,600 four-year, degree-granting colleges in the USA with hundreds of fabulous colleges and universities that you have never heard of that will be a wonderful place for you to live and learn. 6. Personalize the process. The colleges want to know: Who is this kid for the opportunities she has had – in writing. Make an effort to bring a Chinese or Korean or Indian or however your country or region of a country has influenced you. For example, many Chinese students write about America rather than China… that doesn’t add anything to the classroom discussion from a Chinese student. Talk about Chinese art, or history, or Communist government, because YOU bring a CHINESE point of view to the college campus is one reason you will be accepted. 7. Be authentically and specifically you.