Stand Out From the Crowd

Advice on how to navigate the admissions process

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A quality education is a worthwhile investment, but with thousands of schools to choose from, how do you choose the right one? How do you survive the mind-boggling process? Is it possible to find the “perfect” fit? We talked to local admissions officers at the secondary and college levels and asked for tips on how to learn about the ins and outs of area schools, how to determine if a school is the right fit, and advice for those interested in applying in the near future. From doing your research in advance to understanding each school’s unique mission, this guide will help you stand out from the crowd when applying for schools.

Secondary Education

Breck School

Breck has been everything we wanted and expected—an excellent education in small classes, individual attention to our kids’ needs, opportunities to try new things in a safe environment, and a community of parents who believe in the school’s mission. —Anne Damon and Roy Ginsburg, parents of Breck students

What, in your opinion, are the best ways to learn about the ins and outs of a particular school? It is important that interested students and their parents have as much information as possible about Breck. Visit the campus for a tour, meet faculty and students. Spend a morning or a full academic day as guests of Breck students in the applicant’s current grade level.

What is the deadline for applications? February 1, 2007. The candidate’s application file must be complete to be considered in the first round of decision-making. Decision letters are mailed to applicants and their parents in April of 2007.

What is Breck’s mission? To prepare each student for a college whose culture is compatible with the individual’s needs, interests, and abilities; help develop each student’s unique talents and potential; and instill in each student a deep sense of social responsibility.

Contact info:
123 Ottawa Ave. North, Mpls., MN 55422
763-381-8100 • www.breckschool.org

Minnehaha Academy

We can’t imagine our daughter being better prepared for college, academically, socially,
and spiritually. —Parent of a recent Minnehaha Academy graduate

When reviewing applications, what makes a student truly stand out? For Lower School (grades K-5), we rely on a visit to our school. During this visit the Minnehaha teacher will make observations about readiness and fit for the curriculum at Minnehaha Academy. For Upper School (9-12) and Middle School (6-8) we do a thorough review of academic background (school records, testing, teacher recommendations). We also interview prospective students, have them answer some short essay questions and encourage them to visit classes for a day.

On average, how many applications do you receive every year? How many students do you accept? For a given school year, we receive between 350-400 applications. We accept 70-75 percent of the applications we receive.
Do you have any advice for those interested in applying/attending in the future? Call our Admission Office. Visit our school. Visit other schools. Talk to parents. Find the school that is the right fit for your student.

Contact info: 3100 West River Pkwy., Mpls., MN 55406
612-728-7763 • www.minnehahaacademy.net

Minnetonka Public Schools

If you are looking for a community committed to families and children, one that values and supports education, and has a hometown community feel, you’ve found it in the Minnetonka School District! —Dr. Dennis Peterson, Superintendent

Who attends Minnetonka Public Schools? The Minnetonka Public School District is a high performing school district proudly serving families in all or part of 10 communities: Minnetonka, Chanhassen, Deephaven, Eden Prairie, Excelsior, Greenwood, Shorewood, Tonka Bay, Victoria and Woodland.

How many students are enrolled in District 276? We serve approximately 7,700 students in grades K-12. In addition, our birth-to-5 Early Childhood Family Education Program serves families and children during the most critical early developmental years.

What sets District 276 apart from other public schools?
We are a leader among public schools in the state, nationally recognized for the use of technology in the classroom as an accelerator of learning. The education students receive in Minnetonka schools is unlike any other.

Contact info: 5621 Cty. Rd. 101, Minnetonka, MN 55345
952-401-5000 • www.minnetonka.k12.mn.us

Mounds Park Academy

MPA has sparked a passionate, hard-working sense of global and personal responsibility in me, as well as an urge to not only learn and experience the world, but to change it for the better. —Current MPA senior Sara Coomes

Do you have any advice for those interested in applying to MPA? Mounds Park Academy is a pre-kindergarten through 12th grade school and admits new students in every grade level each year. Students applying to our middle (grades 5-8) and upper (grades 9-12) schools should set high academic standards as that is what will be expected of them as students of MPA. Mounds Park Academy places a high value on a liberal arts education and encourages students to not only take a wide range of academic subjects, but also to get involved in the many extra-curricular activities offered at the school. When looking at applicants, we look at how well-rounded their previous education has been and what activities they have been involved in outside of the classroom.

On average, how many applications do you receive every year? How many students do you accept? Last year at Mounds Park Academy, we received around 175 application and offered admission to approximately 145 students.

Contact info: 2051 E. Larpenteur Ave., St. Paul, MN 55109
651-777-2555 • www.moundsparkacademy.org

The International School of MN

We care much about the students, their growth academically, intellectually and physically. The school runs like a clock. We are the gears of the clock and we help students see the time. —ISM Upper School math teacher

What, in your opinion, are the best ways to learn about the ins and outs of a particular school? The Admissions process at The International School of Minnesota is designed to help parents make the best educational decision for their children. We strive to enable The School, applicants, and parents to learn as much as possible about each other in order to determine the suitability of ISM’s environment for each applicant. Interested families are encouraged to visit The School for a tour by appointment. The prospective family will have the chance to visit a classroom and talk with our admissions staff.

What is the admissions deadline? ISM has an open enrollment admission policy. As long as students meet the academic criteria, they are accepted throughout the school year. Students are enrolled on a space-available basis.

How is the International School different from other schools? ISM is part of the SABIS® Educational System. The SABIS® Educational System and other points of distinction tend to attract an extensive breadth and depth of students and families of different cultures, religions, languages, and perspectives.

Contact info:
6385 Beach Rd., Eden Prairie, MN 55344
952-918-1840 • www.ism-sabis.net

Southwest Christian High School

Southwest not only prepared me well for the rigors of college, but also helped me define my biblical worldview. —Nancy Walters, 2006 graduate

When reviewing applications, what makes a student truly stand out? We have three criteria for our applicants: a desire to grow as a disciple of Jesus Christ, a desire to learn, and a desire on the part of the family to work with the school’s vision, mission, philosophy, and values. Students who really shine in the application process are those who have shown self-discipline in their studies and have sought out ways to challenge themselves and find out their gifts/strengths.

How valuable are pre-college learning programs? As a college-prep school, very valuable. Southwest offers AP courses in Calculus, U.S. History, and English. We also offer honors courses and two college-level courses taught by Crown College professors.

When determining if a school is the right fit, what would you recommend a student (or parent) take into consideration? Two things: the people (students, staff, and families); and the school’s foundation (mission, vision, etc.) These two things will have a more permanent impact on a student’s life than a particular class or sport, the facilities, or the location. Students and parents should ask themselves, “What are the people like here? What are they about? What drives this school?”

Contact info: 103 Peavey Rd., Chaska, MN 55318
952-556-0040 • www.swchs.org

 

Colleges and Universities

College of Saint Benedict

It’s the balance of academics, service, athletics, and spirituality that makes CSB/SJU truly amazing. —Erica Layer, chemistry major

What are the best ways to learn about the ins and outs of a particular school? Choosing a school is kind of like choosing a friend: 1) Don’t let someone else choose your friends for you based on popularity (rankings). Choose a school because it offers you the kind of educational environment that will work best for you. 2) You wouldn’t choose a friend based on a blog, website or what you’ve read in a magazine. While a website or a college view book can be a helpful beginning to your college search, these tools are merely meant as an initial guide, no more. Meeting a school means meeting the students and faculty that comprise that school. Stay over night if you can; sit down in the cafeteria next to students you don’t know and ask them questions. How you are treated will help you decide if indeed that college is the right fit for you.

What advice do you have for students when writing an essay? Your essay tells us what you think of yourself. If you are humorous, by all means write a humorous essay; conversely, if you are not a humorous person, don’t try now. In the end, what works in an essay is well written sentences that flow in well thought out paragraphs that are tightly organized.

Contact info: P.O. Box 7155, Collegeville, MN 56321
800-544-1489/320-363-2196 • www.csbsju.edu

Concordia College, Moorhead

There are two main reasons most students choose Concordia — to be taught by amazing faculty, and to make friends that last a lifetime. —Jenna Wolf, class of 2007

In preparing for higher learning, how important are activities outside of the classroom? Our mission is to influence the affairs of the world by sending into society thoughtful and inform men and women dedicated to the Christian life. In order to fulfill our mission, students have to be willing and able to learn from activities inside and outside of the classroom.

On average, how many applications do you receive every year? How many students do you accept? Every year we see approximately 2500-2600 applications. We accept about 80 percent.

What’s the “kiss of death” in an application? We have a good history with the students that are looking at Concordia College. The main thing that may cut a student’s opportunity short is academic dishonesty.

Do you have any advice for those interested in applying in the future? For those students that are looking at Concordia College for their college career, the first step is to apply and visit. For those that may not be familiar with Concordia, take a visit and you will see why we are a prefer choice among students in the state of Minnesota.

Contact info: 901 S. 8th St., Moorhead, MN 56562
800-699-9897/218-299-3004 • www.cord.edu

Concordia University, St. Paul

Concordia’s approach is very interactive and based on accumulated experiences—not just staying in the classroom, but getting out in the community and learning in other ways. —Barrett Grebing, junior, Director of Christian Education major

What makes a student stand out during the application process? Like most colleges, we seek for a solid GPA and strong test scores. However, we also consider students who may not have achieved the top grades in high school, but whom we feel have academic potential and other experiences that may help them succeed in college, such as active engagement in school activities, community service, or other outside interests that fuel their passion. Often those students who, at first blush, may not “look good on paper” are quite successful in college academically and otherwise.
 
Do you have any advice for those interested in applying in the future? Many students take the ACT in their junior year and again in their senior year; often their scores will go up a point or more, which can positively affect their financial aid package. We also encourage students to apply early in fall of their senior year—some schools offer scholarships for students accepted before Dec. 1. Apply for financial aid early to ensure you are considered for all available grants, awards and scholarships.

Contact info: 275 N. Syndicate St., St. Paul, MN 55104
800-333-4705/ 651-641-8230 • www.csp.edu

Gustavus Adolphus College

Unlike other schools, Gustavus supports my passion for many different things. I have both academic and music scholarships, plus I can continue to dive competitively. —Jessie Niles, sophomore

When determining if a school is the right fit, what would you recommend a student take into consideration? Students should determine which school (or schools) feels comfortable and offer them the best chance to succeed.
 
On average, how many applications do you receive every year? How many students do you accept? 3000/2100
What, in your opinion, can be the “kiss of death” when filling out a college application? Missing deadlines, being sloppy, showing a lack of maturity or apathy in responses to questions and essays can all severely hurt the chances of an applicant being accepted to a school.

Do you have any advice for those interested in applying in the future? For students with strong academic records—apply early to give yourself ample time for your final decision. For students who have struggled in the past—trends in improvement can weigh heavily toward acceptance to a school.

Contact info: 800 West College Ave., St. Peter, MN 56082
507-933-8000 • www.gustavus.edu

Hamline University

During my four years at Hamline, I was able to apply knowledge from classes directly to active forensic cases while assisting my advisor in her professional consultations. I feel lucky and honored to have done this since very few undergraduate students have the opportunity to work on real cases.  —Katie, anthropology graduate

What, in your opinion, are the best ways to learn about the ins and outs of a particular school? Visit, visit, visit. Attend a general open house as well as an individualized visit. Sit in a class, eat on campus, watch, listen, and ask questions. Once the choice is narrowed down, spend a night on campus (most schools will arrange this) to really get a sense of the students and campus climate and atmosphere.

Do you have any advice for those interested in applying in the future? Challenge yourself to the best of your ability in high school. Take challenging courses through your entire senior year—don’t get lazy your last year of college—students who do not challenge themselves in the senior year tend not to do as well in their first year of college. Be curious.

Contact info: 1536 Hewitt Ave. MS-C1930, St. Paul, MN 55104
800-753-9753/ 651-523-2207 • www.hamline.edu

Minnesota State Colleges and Universities

The law creating the Minnesota State system was passed by the Minnesota Legislature in 1991 and went into effect July 1, 1995. The law merged the state’s community colleges, technical colleges and state universities into one system.

How many institutions are in Minnesota State Colleges and Universities? We have 25 colleges and 7 universities.

On average, how many students do you serve annually? We serve approximately 369,000 in credit and non-credit courses.

How many students are educated through Minnesota Online? Nearly 42,000 students at www.minnesotaonline.org.

What percentage of the state’s undergrads are educated through MnSCU? We educate 61 percent of the state’s undergraduates. We educate more than half the state’s new teaching graduates; 78 percent of the state’s new nursing graduates; 92 percent of the state’s law enforcement officers; 48 percent of the state’s new business grads; and 91 percent of the state’s new graduates in construction trades.

Contact info: 651-296-8012/888-667-2848 • www.mnscu.edu

Minnesota State University, Mankato

Minnesota State Mankato will be known as a university where people expect to go further than they thought possible by combining knowledge and the passion to achieve great things. —Office of the President

When determining if a school is the right fit, what would you recommend a student take into consideration? Programs of study; location; cost; student success programs (ex: First Year Experience Office); conversations with faculty in specific academic areas of interest; and the overall reputation of the institution.

On average, how many applications do you receive every year? How many students do you accept? 10,000/7,000
What do you offer over other schools? We believe we provide a quality educational experience at an affordable cost, where student success is the cornerstone of the experience. We are large enough to provide diversity of both programs and student populations, yet small enough to offer a personalized experience.

Do you have any advice for those interested in applying in the future? Visit several schools, talk with parents about financing education expenses, talk with faculty in your area of interest.

Contact info: 228 Wiecking Ctr., Mankato, MN 56001-6062
800-722-0544 • www.mnsu.edu

 

North Dakota State University

I started researching NDSU and there was no question about where I wanted to go. Besides having a great business school, I loved the Fargo-Moorhead area. —Kali, senior

What should a student take into consideration when choosing a career path? What classes do you enjoy in high school; where are your interests? What jobs have you held that you enjoyed? Aptitude and vocational tests can help identify career areas, and point students to fields they may want to investigate or shadow.

What advice do career coaches and counselors have for students who aren’t sure what they want to major in? Take time to determine the field best suited to them. Too often students feel pressured to make a decision regarding a major, when they are not ready to do so. It is not uncommon to change majors once in college, and the important point is to stay academically strong in whatever courses a student takes. This will help them as they eventually move into their selected field of study. It is also encouraged that they explore career options through our career center, career counseling services, and get some volunteer or paid experience in an area that seems of interest.

Contact info:
Box 5454, Fargo, ND 58105 • 800-488-NDSU
701-231-8802 • www.ndsu.eduwww.ndsu.edu/askme

Saint John’s University

At CSB/SJU we learn how to understand and respect others. That really prepares students for a very diverse world.
Fousseyni Diakite, student – Bamako, Mali

On average, how many applications do you receive every year? How many students do you accept? This changes every year and thus is not a very good criterion for choosing a school. Harvard gets thousands of applications each year from students who have no chance of admission. Those students applied because they wanted to take a chance. Moreover, the schools with the lowest admit rates in this country are on the east coast. Their application count is a function of population density, not necessarily quality. Minnesota is fortunate to have several wonderful educational options that offer realistic chances of admission to solid students.

Do you have any advice for those interested in applying/attending in the future? The college search and selection process is one of the first big decisions a person will make in their life. This does not mean that it’s a high-stakes decision and it should certainly not be a stressful decision. What sometimes makes the college process stressful is when a student or parent chooses a school for the wrong reason; perceived prestige over fit is usually the culprit. Remember, college does not educate you, you educate yourself. Professors can’t open your head and poor in wisdom. What you are looking for is a school that will provide you the resources that will allow you to thrive. Do you prefer lectures; do you prefer discussion-based learning. Would you prefer to live at home and attend college during the day, or would you prefer a residential, 24/7 learning experience. These are questions, in part, whose answers will reveal themselves to you when you make a campus visit.

Contact info: PO Box 7155, Collegeville, MN 56321
• 1-800-544-1489/320-363-2196 • www.cbsju.edu

St. Cloud State University

My transition to college was challenging, but I had caring faculty and staff who attached themselves to me and have never let go. —Nicole Turner, student

When reviewing applications, what makes a student truly stand out? Good grades in high school with a solid college preparatory curriculum.

When determining if a school is the right fit, what would you recommend a student take into consideration? Relationships: How do you feel about the admissions staff? When you meet people on campus, do the relationships feel right? Will there be lots of opportunities to build good relationships on campus?

On average, how many applications do you receive every year? How many students do you accept? 9,500/4,600
Do you have any advice for those interested in applying in the future? Work hard inside and outside of the classroom—that hard work will translate into success regardless of where you attend college.

What, in your opinion, is the “kiss of death” during the applicatin process? At St. Cloud State University there is no kiss of death. We look at each and every application as a whole.

Contact info: 720 S. Fourth Ave., St. Cloud, MN 56301
877-654-7278 • www.stcloudstate.edu

St. Olaf College

At St. Olaf we value students and challenge them intellectually while being rooted in a community of faith. —St. Olaf Choir Conductor Anton Armstrong, 1978

When determining if a school is the right fit, what would you recommend a student take into consideration? A student needs to find a school that is both supportive and challenging, and that can be difficult. You’ll find many friendly colleges that are supportive, and some colleges that stress academic rigor but are culturally cold. It is harder to find schools where rigorous academics are offered in a supportive, engaging environment. St. Olaf offers that combination. And we believe it is a distinguishing characteristic that both students and their parents will appreciate.

Do you have any advice for those interested in applying/attending in the future? Start early with the process of exploration and discernment. Be true to yourself when you answer these questions: What is most important to me? What do I want to find in a college? You shouldn’t apply to a school before you’ve figured out some of those things.
On average, how many students do you accept each year? In the last recruiting cycle, we received 3,700 applications, we admitted roughly 64 percent of the students who applied to St. Olaf.

Contact info: 1520 St. Olaf Ave., Northfield, MN 55057
507-646-3032 • www.stolaf.edu

University of Minnesota Duluth

When I stand at the edge of the lake, I see endless possibilities and opportunities…that best explains life at UMD. —Recent UMD graduate

When reviewing applications, what makes a student truly stand out? Class rank, ACT/SAT scores, and academic selection are the primary considerations. GPA trend, overall preparation, and persistence are secondary considerations.

What, in your opinion, are the best ways to learn about the ins and outs of a particular school? College websites, printed literature, personal contact, and campus visits are all recommended in the college search process.

On average, how many applications do you receive every year? How many students do you accept? On average, we receive 7,000 applications from new freshman applicants for each fall term. We accept about 75 percent of our freshman applicants.

Do you have any advice for those interested in applying in the future? Apply early, and apply to several (three or more) schools.

What does UMD offer over other schools? Undergraduate students can choose from 12 bachelor degrees in 75 majors. In addition to the two-year program at the School of Medicine and a College of Pharmacy program, UMD offers graduate programs in 20 different fields, plus six cooperative programs offered through the Twin Cities. Providing an alternative to both large research universities and small liberal arts colleges, UMD attracts students looking for a personalized learning experience on a medium-sized campus of a major university.

Contact info: 23 Solon Campus Center, 1117 University Drive, Duluth, MN 55812
800-232-1339/218-726-7171, www.d.umn.edu

University of Minnesota, Morris

I like the University of Minnesota, Morris because I know that I am receiving a great education while building relationships with the campus and community that will last a lifetime. —Lacey Running Hawk, 2008 – Pensacola, Fla., Psychology/pre-medicine

When determining if a school is the right fit, what would you recommend a student take into consideration? We recommend that students begin with a list of factors that are important to them, such as academic programs, distance from home, campus culture/values, extracurricular offerings, size of the campus, cost of attendance, success of alumni, and location. Each student has a unique list of important factors that are personal to him or her, and this list can be an important tool in guiding them to find the right fit.

On average, how many applications do you receive every year? How many students do you accept? We receive an average of 1,200 applications for first year students. Around 900 students are accepted each year. We are fortunate to have many highly qualified applicants, allowing us to extend offers of admission to many students.

Do you have any advice for those interested in applying in the future? Assess yourself and determine what you hope to achieve and experience during your college experience. Look for colleges that offer you an education and experiences that will prepare you to navigate future opportunities and challenges. There is much discussion about “fit” between a college and a student, and although it is often an intangible factor, it can make all the difference. Don’t be afraid to branch out or try new things—this is truly the time to reinvent yourself.

Contact info: 600 E. 4th St., Morris, MN 562678
• 888-UMM-EDUC • www.morris.umn.edu

University of St. Thomas

My PR classes were very small so I had a chance to do a lot of group work and interesting projects. The writing was also very valuable. Every class had writing assignments that helped prepare me for my current career. —Sara Shaber, journalism-public relations and political science, 2002

What makes a student stand out when applying to St. Thomas? Students who received good grades in college prep courses, well-rounded, involved students who will continue to make those same kinds of contributions at the university level.

What’s the best way for prospective students to learn about the ins and outs of a particular school? Attend college fairs, spend time reading their website, and talk with faculty and students. Visit the campus more than once before making a decision.

The following are answers from alumni Sara Shaber:
Do you have any advice for those interested in applying in the future? I would tell a prospective student to get the most they can out of college. Make sure you really love what the college has to offer and make your own decisions. Also get involved in as many activities as you can. That is how you meet people and learn about yourself.

What were you involved in at UST and did it help in your career development? I was involved in residence life and the Aquin staff. The Aquin definitely developed my writing skills and taught me the value of deadlines. Being a Resident Advisor (RA) taught me how to work with other people and to be open-minded.

What did you like best about being in the Twin Cities as a college student? It was fun being in the Twin Cities because I was still close to home but not too close. I was able to live my own life but have my family close by. There is also so much to do and see. I was never bored.

Contact info: 2115 Summit Ave., St. Paul, MN 55105
• 800-328-6819, 651-962-5000 • www.stthomas.edu

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