Leadership: Every College’s Dream Attribute In An Applicant (Part 2 of 2)

3 Ways to Lead as a College Applicant

1. The college interview.  This is the best opportunity for a student to show leadership, and it’s done in the college’s admissions office.  Instead of a student walking into what may be perceived as a verbal firing squad, the student should be interviewing the admissions officer about the school. After the mutual niceties are exchanged, the student should start the interview by making the following statement: “The reason I’m here is because I like what I see on your website and you have the major and environment I’m looking for; however, there are plenty of other colleges that fit my requirements, which means I’m actively shopping, so I need to ask you some questions to see if your answers convince me to apply here. Does that make any sense?”

Wait for an answer, which will likely instill a positive impression. This is an opening statement that admissions officers are not used to hearing, and when they hear it, your child’s leadership is on grand display for the admissions officer to observe and – yes – even admire.

The student gets into his questions. My students go into an interview with seven powerful questions that are designed to influence the listener so much that the impact of the questions has the most positive result.  My paying clients get to see all seven questions, but I will give you one of those questions, one that is designed to signal to the listener that the student is sensitive to an issue that demonstrates a greater maturity than what they are accustomed to seeing in the admissions office. An issue that shows sensitivity to the concerns of his or her parents, which isn’t characteristic of most teenagers. And the question goes like this:

“Teachers who were interviewed after the Virginia Tech massacre admitted on camera that they knew this student to be a ‘whack job.’  To assure me and my parents that you have a safe campus, what specific measures or background checks does your college make on applicants to actually determine in advance that the student applicant isn’t a ‘whack job?’ And what proof can you offer for me to take back and show my parents?”

This is not a comfortable question to answer. It puts the admissions officer on the defensive to come up with an intelligent answer. That’s okay because the officer has probably never been placed in this position by a 17-year-old, and may well be impressed that a student is actually asking such a penetrating and thoughtful question. It has everything to do with safety, but more importantly, the question has everything to do with impressing the admissions officer – influencing positive impressions – demonstrating the student’s leadership.

The answer, in effect, is irrelevant: what the student will accomplish is a positive influence on the admissions officer. Leadership demonstrated.

Plus, the student should take out a piece of folded paper with questions on it and read the questions. This gesture will suggest a thoughtful student who cared enough to write down the questions in advance. And it will also suggest a more mature and focused applicant that colleges only dream about.
See my Facebook page on leadership.

So far I’ve given you a sense of what needs to be done in the admissions office to demonstrate leadership, even if the student doesn’t belong to any sports teams or school clubs. If you follow this simple example that I gave you, your student will be going down the right road to getting accepted to the college of his/her choice.

2. Here’s a second way. It’s writing a thoughtful college application essay.  I have the second most-watched video on YouTube under the category, “college essay.” In that video I talk about what topics to avoid. These are topics admission readers are resistant to read, but there are exceptions to every rule, which means taking some risks with the forbidden topics. But I don’t have my own students take those risks. Why would I tell a student to go ahead and discuss the death of his grandmother if the very first impression of the reader is, “Oh no! Not another essay that tries to manipulate my emotions!”

I tell my own students that they need to write about something they have personally experienced and then give your impressions of that experience. And nobody can do it better than you because only you know better than anyone what that experience meant to you. You are the world’s leading expert on your impressions of your own experiences. So put some thought into it and write. I find that my students, with my coaching and insight into the college essay, can get their essay written in a matter of hours instead of weeks and months. And their essays are always incisive in ways that colleges really welcome.

If for some reason you cannot get an interview with a college – by the way, I have a method to get a student an interview every time – the essay then becomes the most important way to influence the reader and lead them to conclude you are the kind of student they are looking for. Which brings me to a third way to demonstrate leadership in the college admissions process, and that is…

3. Verifying the spelling of an admission officer’s first and last name. This is perhaps the most difficult exercise for a student to do because it’s talking like an adult to another adult about what could be perceived by the student as a very trivial exercise. What’s the big deal about verifying the spelling of a first and last name when the student is already on the phone with the admissions person? Let me ask you a question: What is the most lovely sound to your ears? It’s the sound of your first and last names. So the student should go thru the following exercise to say something like this:

Scenario # 1 If the admissions person has already identified himself as, say, Jim Jones. This name is very simple, and no one would think to ask about verifying the spelling of this person’s name. Right? Here’s what your student would say:

“If you don’t mind, I like to be sure I get a person’s name right, so is that  J-I-M as in ‘Jim’ and J-O-N-E-S as in ‘Jones?’” You’ll get an affirmative answer, and the impression on the admissions officer will be positively HUGE. Chances are excellent that he will get off the phone and tell his associates that “I just had a 17-year-old ask to verify the spelling of my name! Can you believe that?! I don’t care if this student is flunking out of high school, I want to meet this kid!”

Grand slam. The student is as good as admitted, and the grades and test scores are a complete mystery because this may well be the student’s first contact with the college.

Scenario #2  If the admissions person’s name of Kalashnikov Kryzanoski, the student has a challenge of perhaps spending as much as two minutes on this guy’s name. As in, “Can I spell your name back to you to be sure I’ve got it right?” This is after the student has already asked the man to repeat his spelling because he spelled it too fast for the student to keep up. The objective is to impress the listener in the admissions office.

So we’ve gone over only three ways to impress the admissions office….an interview that the student conducts, a thoughtful essay, and the verifying of the admissions officer’s name. These three are a start, and please notice that none of these three techniques, which exercise a powerful influence over the admission officer, have anything to do with a student being the president of his class or the captain of his baseball team. It has everything to do with leadership in its most elemental form – influencing someone to conclude that the student is a leader, even if it’s never verbalized. It’s the subliminal impression that is left behind for the admission officer to conclude that this student is the type of student our college really needs. Admission facilitated. Greatly.
Go here for my new Leadership page on Facebook.


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3 Responses to “Leadership: Every College’s Dream Attribute In An Applicant (Part 2 of 2)”

  1. Serenamom Says:

    Awesome advice, Paul!

    • Paul Hemphill Says:

      Thank you. I was inspired by this little book I found on Amazon.com. I think the name of it is, Why You’re Already A Leader. Are you familiar with it?…

  2. Tweets that mention Leadership: Every College’s Dream Attribute In An Applicant (Part 2 of 2) « College Admissions Videos Blog -- Topsy.com Says:

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by cstudentlounge, b4collegevideos. b4collegevideos said: Leadership in spelling a name http://wp.me/pLl4p-ke […]

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