Episode 92: Self-Assess | Don’t Be Rigid

Episode 92: Self-Assess | Don’t Be Rigid

Date of Publication/发布日期
October 28, 2022
Curtis Westbay
Files & media
Volume 3 2022-2023

Self-Assessment and Its Value in College Admission

In 2017, 81% of college applicants submitted three or more applications. In 1995, 61% of students submitted three or more applications. In 2017, 36% of students submitted seven or more applications; in 1995, only 10% submitted applications to seven or more schools. At highly-selective universities, this trend is even more pronounced: these schools, which select fewer than half of the students who apply, have seen a 25% increase in applications in just the past two years. The number of international applicants has increased over this period at triple the rate of domestic applicants.

It’s a well-established fact that applications are on the rise, both over two decades and over two years before now. Enrollment management is complicated by this trend, as colleges try to admit students who are likely to attend if accepted. Highly-selective universities have incentive to remain selective— the ranking publications that have raised their profile with applicants, especially from international markets, account for selectivity. Though selectivity and yield may only account for a small proportion of the overall score a school is given in a publication’s ranking methodology, the margins have shrunk so much at the top that these factors can be the difference between rising or falling in the overall ranking list. In one sense, rankings point to a number of factors that indicate a high-quality educational experience— things like resource expenditure per student, faculty credentials, and student-faculty ratio are good markers of the support that will surround a student once they matriculate to college. And yet, as many people will attest, there’s no guarantee that educational expenditure is evenly distributed; there’s no guarantee that a faculty member with a terminal degree enjoys, or puts great effort into, teaching undergraduates; there’s no guarantee that a culture of personalized support stems from a low student-faculty ratio.

None of this is meant to dissuade parents from pushing their students to pursue highly-selective, highly-ranked universities. I’ve learned by now that I’m not persuasive enough to do this, but also that there are other factors to consider, like the name recognition of a student’s college destination and the impact it may bear on future career prospects.

So, why bring it up at all?

As colleges receive more and more applications, they pay more and more attention to the degree to which a student seems genuinely interested in their program when applying. It stands to reason that, if students are applying to dozens of colleges but can only attend one, their motivation to apply to many of these colleges is more strategic than anything else. This idea— demonstration of interest— is a relatively new consideration for college admission decision-makers. And there are a variety of ways that a student can demonstrate interest, like attending college visits, requesting information from a school, writing thoughtful supplementary essays, conducting voluntary alumni interviews, and so on. This blog post is not about that. It’s about the antecedent to all of that.

The first step to demonstrating interest is self-assessment.

Students shouldn’t arrive at Grade 12 without having done some extensive self-assessment. As to how, I’ll keep it simple for now. Students can explore this self-assessment process to greater depth in Chapters 5 and 6 of the BIPH College Admission Handbook for Students, available to them in their grade-level college counseling group in Microsoft Teams.

Personal self-assessment—

  • What do you care about?
  • What frustrates you?
  • What is the type of work you find most fulfilling?
  • What are your friends like, and what is it that you appreciate most about them?
  • How do you react to setbacks? What is the greatest support you have when things get tough?
  • What objectives do you find most personally fulfilling?

Academic self-assessment—

  • What do you care about?
  • What academic question is endlessly fascinating to you?
  • Which subject do you find to be the most compelling?
  • What are the questions, topics, units, or activities that really stirred you?
  • What unsolved issue has captured your attention the longest?
  • When limited, how do you wish you could instead explore a subject or idea?
  • Whom do you admire, as a thinker? What is it that you admire about them?
  • Why do you wish you could be more like this person?
  • What would success look like for you, walking in their footsteps? At age 25? 40? 60? 80?
  • What experiences have shaped you, as a student? How do these experiences provide you with your core academic values?
  • Which teachers strengthened these values? How?
  • What do you do academically that makes you most proud? Most happy?
  • Most frustrated?
  • What stories could you tell about your growth as a student that describe how you have become who you are? What do these stories reveal about you?
  • Do you have a story to tell? If not, what keeps you from finding a story about yourself as a student, a role you’ve occupied for thousands of hours?
  • When in your academic life was everything “right?” What changed between then and now?
  • What is your biggest source of dissatisfaction right now?
  • What are the things that create friction in your relationships with teachers and classmates? What are the non-negotiable features of your academic life that, given the option, you would never compromise on?
  • What are the traits you most admire in a classmate? How can you make them your own?
  • What do you think others say about you, the student, when you aren’t around? What are the things others might value in having you as a classmate?
  • Who are the students you have looked up to? What things did they do that you wish to emulate?
  • How could you improve on their example?
  • What is the legacy you hope to leave behind for our school? What is something that you’ve helped build that you want to improve even more?

Career ambition self-assessment—

  • Do you have any pre-professional experiences that showed you what you may want, or not want, to do in your career?
  • What will be required to transition from college to a career? Do the colleges on your list have mechanisms in place to support this transition?
  • At your ideal college, are professors more concerned with academia and theory, or with practicality and industry experience?
  • If you have no career ambitions at present, what do the colleges on your list offer to help you explore potential career paths prior to graduation?

With the answers to these questions, your student will be well on their way to demonstrating interest to the colleges on their list. More importantly, they will have solid reasons why those colleges will be places where they can be happy, successful, and fulfilled. Most importantly, they will know themselves even better before stepping out into the larger world beyond high school.

Self-assessment is the most important step in this process. The greatest dividends it will pay don’t necessarily have anything to do with getting into a college, though self-assessment does help with admission chances, as well. Later in this year, we will explore this process of college research more deeply. For now, I hope, students can get a head start by considering the questions above.