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How Students Can Ask for Help in the College Admissions Process

by Carol Barash, PhD, on Jun 19, 2014 11:30:00 AM

Last Wednesday night, I rushed out of the Princeton Club to catch the 8:50 NJ Transit train from Penn Station. I couldn’t find a cab, and the E train was packed and slow. By the time I reached Penn Station, the train was boarding.

I was making my way to the train, jammed in the crowd, when the strap of my bag broke. I started to slip as I reached to catch it. “Help, I’m falling,” I shouted and two men in front of me turned around.  One caught me and the other saved my bag of books and papers. Nothing was brokennot even my high heels.

I ran into my friend Zev on the train and told him this story. “That’s crazy,” he said, “you should play the lottery tonight.”

But Sophie saw more than luck in my good fortune: “It’s amazing that your first response was to call for help, not to try to save yourself,” she said.

It’s taken me a long time to learn to ask for help, and I can trace most of my biggest blunders to not asking for help soon enough. If you’re like me and love to solve problems independently, that’s great, but you can’t do everything alone! Here are three areas where you’ll do yourself a favor by asking for help.

1. Ask your college counselor specific questions

College counselors work with lots of students, and they tend to give general advice first. Help them meet your individual needs by submitting all your forms on time, including lots of details on your “brag sheet,” and by asking specific questions that help them get you what you need. Counselors can also talk about complicated parts of your academic or personal record in their recommendationbut they may only do this if you ask them.

2.  Ask your English teacher to read your essay for the feedback you need most

Do you want them to review it for grammaras if it’s finishedor do you need a more basic reaction to the topic or tone? It can be tricky with English teachers since they grade your writing, and may even have seen some version of your essay in class. But if you ask them to engage with the essay as an admissions officer trying to learn about your character, you can learn a lot.

3. Ask your parents about money

You will need your parents’ financial information to complete the FAFSA and other financial aid forms, so begin the conversation early. How much financial support can they provide towards your college education? What do they expect you to contribute? Frank conversations about money may seem tough, but they help families open up about other aspects of college life like safety and health as well.

Topics:college admission