Thursday, February 02, 2012

A special thanks to Jason Ferguson, Director of Admissions at Hampden-Sydney College, for participating in the Admissions Spotlight Series. Joseph Fernandez from Parliament Tutors conducted this interview.

As the Dean of Admissions, what are your day-to-day responsibilities?

Really? My day is never the same…which is a good thing. With that said, every day I work to recruit the best and brightest young men to our campus.

What do you consider the most significant parts of an application, the parts which applicants should prepare the most carefully?

While each part is important, applicants need to take care when filling out the application. Make sure that their application is complete and the information is correct. Make sure the essay is well-written and the teacher’s reference is from someone teaching them an academic subject.

Is there anything you frequently see on an application that you hope to never see again?

The name of another college in the essay…It has always been my dream to attend [insert the name of another school].

What common pitfalls should applicants be careful to avoid?

Trying to overload the extra-curricular activities page. Only list those activities that are important to the applicant and those activities that they have a passion for.

Are there any myths about the application process which you would like to dispel?

That the application process is a difficult one. Granted, I work for a small institution. However, the more time to spend getting to know what each college needs and wants, the easier the process will be for you. Also, most admissions officers are willing to offer assistance…all you have to do is ask.

What advice would you give to an applicant with below-average test scores but significant extra-curricular experience?

For Hampden-Sydney, get to campus for an interview. While significant extra-curricular experience will never replace academic performance, it is always good for us to have a face to go with the name. Furthermore, the interview will give us better insight into the type of candidate you really are.

Do you frequently have to turn away applicants whom you wish you could admit? If so, what could those applicants do to be admitted?

Of course we do. Those applicants just weren’t ready for the academic rigors of curriculum. At least, they had not shown that they are ready at the time for their application. While they can’t go back in time and change their high school performance, we do suggest that they go elsewhere and improve their academic record and show that they are indeed ready for the challenge.

How much faith do you have in the ability of the SAT to predict success at in college?

The SAT is a factor that we consider in conjunction with a number of other credentials. We take a holistic look at the application and make decisions that are in the best interests of the College and the applicant.

What do you look for in a recommendation letter?

Hopefully, the teacher will give us an honest assessment of the student….his work ethic, contributions to the class, and a better insight into the type of learner he is.

Joseph Fernandez is an SAT Tutor with Parliament Tutors. He is a New York Tutor.