April 7, 2015 9:41 am Party with Moms Interviews Admissions Expert Dr. Lowe
College Admissions Season for 2015 is winding down. Most seniors have received their acceptances… and know where they will be next fall.
We took the opportunity to do an in depth interview with Dr. Paul Reginald Lowe, founder of Greenwich Admissions Advisors. Dr. Lowe specializes in helping students and families navigate the private school, college and medical school admissions process. For over 15 years, Dr. Lowe has successfully helped many domestic and international students achieve their educational dreams by gaining admission into U.S. day and boarding schools, Ivy League schools, highly selective colleges and universities and U.S. accredited medical schools. Part 1 of our interview is featured below.
1. At what point in the life of a high school student should he or she begin thinking about potential colleges and the college admissions process?
Actually, college planning should begin before high school. Parents should determine which high school courses and at least begin to think about potential target colleges. Many U.S. high school guidance departments believe that junior year is best time to start the college admissions process; however, I think it will be more challenging to differentiate yourself at that time. Many parents now retain us during their children’s sophomore year. At that time, I help them improve upon what they perceive to be their child’s stellar achievements and begin to assess how we can help them stand out.
2. Does Greenwich Admissions Advisors provide help with applications and essays?
Absolutely! We review college applications and assist in editing the Common Application, personal statements and supplemental essays. We do not write students’ essays. We also discourage our clients from “being inspired” by pre-written essays found online or in books. With regard to the essay, we assist our clients in brainstorming. They write their first draft and we perform editing with them so that it is in their voice. It’s still their work, however, we assist in refining it so that it becomes a personalized admissions branding vehicle not just a well-written narrative.
3. How would you advise a student trying to find a topic for his/her college essay?
The essay is an integral part of a student’s profile and one of the most important factors in determining the outcome of committee’s decision. To start, I have to get to know the client, what motivates them, what makes them feel happy or sad, what defines them as an individual and most importantly what my team and I believe will make them stand out. My admissions team, by design, is racially, culturally, gender and professionally diverse for this purpose. Our essay team consists of dramatists, screenwriters, grammarians and lyricists. In this business, I believe that being different, appreciating that difference and leveraging it is a strategic admissions asset. From there, they send us drafts of different topics and I let them choose which essay version best defines them. To me, the essay is akin to creating a song with a distinct melody and memorable lyrics. We see the essay as a way of self expression like a Jazz tune. It must have a distinct musical vocabulary, attractive verse, rhythm, melody, harmony cadence, timbre and the right personalized pitch that leaves an indelible and lasting impression on an admissions committee.
If the admissions committee members can hum your essay and remember its distinct features, we all know what will happen.
4. Do you believe in SAT prep courses? What other ways do you recommend for students to prepare for the tests?
I do not believe in large SAT prep classes, however, I do believe in face-to-face, one-on-one individualized SAT tutoring. One tutor and one student. I encourage my clients to seek a tutor who can help them thoroughly understand the material. We monitor our client’s progress. The barometer of our client’s comprehensive understanding of the material will be reflected in their stellar scores. That being said, it should be understood that the admissions process is evolving and SAT scores have less and less importance.
5. What can Greenwich parents do to help their child succeed in getting admitted to a first choice college?
Although many parents believe that they can navigate this process on their own, I believe that they must seek professional admissions advice from an expert who knows how to help their child stand out. In public school, especially, students are encouraged academically and socially to be uniquely the same just like everyone else from kindergarten. When they arrive in high school in the midst of the college admissions maze they still sound uniquely the same, with the same unique passions just like every other student. Comparing this to music, they have no signature sound. When students are from a similar demographic they all sound exactly alike. This makes it easier for and faster for admissions committees to reject them.
So I believe that parents should seek out someone who truly understands differences, and how to leverage your child’s differences so that he or she can stand out. I believe the majority of parents still believe in the status quo of college admissions: school guidance department, internet sites, books, and school web-based based tools.
6. What advice would you give to an applicant who has been deferred from early admission at his/her first choice school?
I would advise applicants to proactively and tactfully remarket and rebrand themselves. My strategic approach to deferred students is that they need to reassess their entire Common App and student profile. Before they submit applications to other schools, they need to see either what went wrong or what needs improvement.
7. Please give a brief description of a Greenwich student you think deserves to be admitted to an Ivy League school. What would be the GPA, SAT scores, extracurricular and community activities and work experience the school would be looking for? How does diversity count in the decision?
We will need to qualify this description: GPA: 3.6 or higher. SAT scores above 1900 Extracurricular: Shows passion and longevity. Community activities: Meaningful involvement, philanthropic and not building ovens or houses in South America or having ESE (Expensive Summer Experiences). One who clearly has high emotional, social and cultural intelligence, can lucidly articulate their achievements and persona to the admissions committee, and can contribute to his/her college freshman year class. Diversity plays a major role in the admissions process. The lack of understanding of its true intrinsic meaning and societal value is why many top students are rejected.