The Importance of Knowing a School’s Culture Part 2: Avoid This Huge Mistake on the Application!
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The Importance of Knowing a School’s Culture Part 2: Avoid This Huge Mistake on the Application!

The Importance of Knowing a School’s Culture Part 2: Avoid This Huge Mistake on the Application!

Written By Professor "T"

One of the most common mistakes applicants make is speaking with confidence about something they think they know about the university, but are actually way off base. As an admissions officer, it's a glaring red flag for me when someone reveals their ignorance about the school in their application. This usually indicates that the school is not their top choice, and they are unlikely to attend if admitted. It also shows that they failed to do their homework, which is not reflective of a hardworking student.

I remember interviewing a student for undergraduate admissions at the University of Chicago who made this mistake. She was a great candidate intellectually, with exceptional academic preparation, and had a wonderful, upbeat, and cheery attitude. During the interview, she mentioned visiting her sister who attends a big state university and talked excitedly about how much she loved the sorority house and attending a football game. She then mentioned how important those two things were to her for her own college experience, and how glad she was that the University of Chicago had both a Greek life and a football team. 

The problem was that the University of Chicago's culture was very different from that of a big state school. Although the school did have fraternities and sororities, parties were not a big part of the culture on campus, and the football team was an NCAA Division III team that students rarely attended to watch. The student had failed to do enough research about the school's culture and atmosphere, and it was clear to me that she would be much more content at a large university that prioritized athletics and Greek life. 

This mistake cost the student a spot at our school, not because of her GPA, standardized test scores, or extracurricular activities, but because she failed to consider whether the school's culture was one she would enjoy. This is an important reminder to all applicants to do their research before applying to a school.

One great resource for learning about a college is the college's website and social media accounts. Look for information about student organizations, diversity and inclusion initiatives, and the overall mission and values of the college. Familiarize yourself with the mission and values of the school, and try to find the school values or motto statement. Use the same keywords you see reflected in their mission statement and/or scattered throughout their website in either your personal statement or any supplemental essays, if possible.

By researching a college's culture and school atmosphere, you can gain a better understanding of what the school desires for its students there. By showing that you understand why you fit into the school culture and reflect the same values, you make the best possible impression on the admissions committee. This sets you apart from other candidates who submit a generalized personal statement to each school they apply to. When you take the extra step to research the values and culture of a school, it distinguishes you from the other candidates, and we as admissions officers take notice. 

Signing off, 

Professor “T”

Professor “T” is a former visiting professor at Reed College, a former University of Chicago Admissions Officer, and a current Admissions Officer for another prestigious university that can’t be revealed (it’s one you all love!). We have worked with her and other admissions officers to put together a special package to help you gain admission into the school of your desire! Call or email us, and we can send you more details to get started for the 2023-2024 college season now!


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