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‘We’re looking for a good match’: Stanford’s dean of admissions on getting into college

February 21, 2018
Stanford’s dean of admissions and financial aid says there’s no formula to a successful college application.
Stanford’s Richard Shaw says there’s no formula to a successful college application. “We look at the academic record, we listen to the personal voice, we look at their dreams about what they’d like to do.” (Photo: teekid/Getty Images)
In this episode of School’s In, Richard Shaw shares what admissions officers want to see in an applicant.

College admissions anxiety takes a heavy toll on high school students and their parents, and the vast majority of applicants—afraid they’ll be rejected by their top choice—apply to four or more schools.

As it turns out, their fears are largely unfounded: 85 percent of applicants end up attending their first- or second-choice college, and a whopping 94 percent get into one of their top three.

“The press would make you believe it’s impossible to get into college,” Richard Shaw, dean of admissions and financial aid at Stanford, said on this episode of School’s In. But with more than 4,000 accredited colleges and universities in the United States today, students are overwhelmingly likely to get into an institution that’s a solid fit for their personality and interests.

Shaw joined Stanford Graduate School of Education Dean Dan Schwartz and Senior Lecturer Denise Pope in the studio to dispel some of the myths of the college admissions process and to offer some guidance from the other side.

There’s no formula to a successful application, he said, but it hinges on much more than a stellar transcript. “It isn’t just about the courses or the grades,” he said. “It’s about the human being behind all of it.”

Students who rise to the top of the applicant pool, he said, are those who’ve embraced their education in a way that shows a sense of their love for what they do.

“In a lot of cases, it’s the first-generation kid who hasn’t had any resources, but you see the glimmer, you see the grit, you see the possibilities of that young person,” he said. “You realize that if they have the resources in college, they’ll take it the distance.”

Listen from the link below, and find more episodes of School's In at the Stanford Radio main page. The show airs Saturdays on SiriusXM Insight Channel 121.