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Not applying to X school because of e-mail responses?

  1. Oct 9, 2012 #1

    My high school situation is somewhat erratic. I switched schools a few times. My grades dropped because of that (and a few other things; but it's nothing "bad" - I didn't get kicked out or anything). In any case, it's not very interesting, but it's quite long. As I needed help with my application forms, given the complexity of my situation, I e-mailed various colleges I'm interested in applying to ask how to fill in certain parts of the application. I tried to be as concise as I could, but the e-mail ended up being quite long.

    I'm picking around 12-16 schools to apply to, and my list actually had more than that.

    Now, I've already received some responses and they ranged from "GOD, did it have to be this long and complicated? Do I really need to read this thing and reply to this kid? ARGH" to very polite replies, passing through "Quite a story you got there. E-mailing us and asking is definitely better than just sending us the app and have us figure it out on our own."

    A few seemed a little pissed off. These weren't their exact words, but that's the gist of it. So, I figured that if those same guys will be reading my application (note that, in general, they will keep my e-mail for future reference!), wouldn't it be best if I change it to the guys who sounded nicer and/or more understanding than the one who was pissed?

    I can't tell for sure, but one or two of them sounded genuinely nice/understanding. The one that seemed most annoyed still tried to be polite, but maybe he/she just had a bad day. And maybe I'm extrapolating too much here, but is it possible that when reading the rest of my application (essays, recommendation letters, etc), he/she actually feels strongly enough about it to hit the "accept button."

    Either way, I will need to choose no more than 15/16 from that list. I'm not sure what to make of this. It's hard enough to figure out what a college "feels" like from so far away. What I was gonna do is wait until all the colleges have responded, and choose those ones that were "nice/understanding", the ones with the "polite replies" (as in, "I'm being nice because it's my job to be a nice...and maybe I'm just a nice person") and maybe one or two of the "irritated ones."
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 9, 2012 #2
    Who exactly did you email? Administrative people? Professors? Depending on what you wrote, I'd be surprised if people in admissions were pissed off.
  4. Oct 9, 2012 #3


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    I'll say this these two things, I'm still unclear exactly what your question is and I do believe that writing above could've been shorter which leads me to believe the email you sent out was epically long. Regardless, from what I understand you want to determine which schools you should apply to based on the replies you received? If that's the case, I say that's non-sense and to apply to the schools you want. There isn't one person deciding your fate so even if you 'annoyed' one person, I doubt an annoyance is grounds to deny anyone admission.
  5. Oct 9, 2012 #4
    Have you done a collegeboard search? I assume you are applying to the US? collegeboard lets you customize your search very comprehensively. Sports, scholarships, academics, size, setting, everything you can ask for in one search.

  6. Oct 10, 2012 #5
    I looked at the page which showed "Admissions Staff", and I e-mailed those people. Generally, colleges (at least, the liberal arts colleges I'm considering do) either have ~3 persons in charge of international admissions or other admissions officers who deal with specific states in the US and specific regions outside of the US, like "Asia" or "Eastern Europe." I e-mail the person who deals withe either general international admissions or the one responsible for my own geographic area, for those people are more likely to be familiar with my country's educational system.

    When e-mailing them, it was imperative that I be specific. My situation is complicated, but not "terrible" (i.e, I didn't go to juve, do drugs or get arrested), and I didn't want anyone to get the wrong idea or think that I am omitting information. Omission of information or lying, on top of being unethical, can lead to one's offer being revoked. I just don't to make things more complicated than they should be, and would rather have this process go as smoothly as possible. Yes, my situation is complicated enough for me to require e-mailing the schools to get assistance with the filling of forms.

    It may seem nonsensical, but when you consider that acceptance rates for international applicants requiring financial aid are usually less than 10% [1] and that acceptance/rejection hinges on those few people, every little detail counts! (for e.g: all correspondence between student and college is kept in a file somewhere, and that is reviewed again when going through the application)

    My reasoning is that if people seem irritated before even viewing the application, then who's to say that their attitude will be any different come decision time?

    [1] For example, at my first choice college, there are only 20-25 spots available for international students requiring aid, and generally about 250 applicants competing for those. The school in question is a small liberal arts college with a student body of about 1500. (across all 4 years)
  7. Oct 10, 2012 #6
    Lol is it swarthmore college in Pennsylvania?

    Mepris, are you applying to graduate school or undergrad? Competition for financial aid for international students is not as intense for grad school as it is for undergrads, assuming your major is in a science or engineering field. For intl' students there is usually very little financial aid for graduate school in business, finance, humanities etc. (unless it is a remote foreign language in which the int'l student is heavily specialized). In undergrads, a lot of liberal arts schools shell out some money for int'l students, but these are extremely competitive. There are int'l students who apply to 9-10 schools in the US and get rejected from all of them.

    Either way, you should apply to a wide range of schools using the CollegeBoard. Don't email them your important info separately from the application, that pisses them off usually, just put additional important information in a section of the application that specifically allows you to do so.

    I myself changed schools many times and have gone to school in 5 different countries so my situation was also quite unique. I put this information (and the countries I went to school in) on the additional comments section on the commonapp. It lets them put your application into perspective without having to fish for emails that show nothing but desperation.

    And most importantly, don't let university admissions hinder your passion for science. This defeats the purpose of your goal. In the end we all die might as well enjoy what we learn and where we learn it.

    Last edited: Oct 10, 2012
  8. Oct 10, 2012 #7
    Nah, but close. Keep the rigor, and then sprinkle in a bit of madness (and I mean that in the best way possible), and you get my ED college. (Reed)

    I had the wrong impression that Swarthmore was too...grounded? As it turns out, their student body may well be among the more interesting of most liberal arts colleges (or "top colleges"), who from what I can see, look more phony than anything else.


    Yep, yep. Whether we're talking about Swarthmore or St. Olaf, the numbers are pretty much the same. I also see some random things happen. Even more random than with domestic applicants.

    Every year or so, we hear of this (supposedly) superstar kid who gets rejected from his/her top choices. I reckon that there's a few of those "anomalies" with international applicants as well. I'm just going by profiles/posts on another forum (you know the one!) but I do see some people who somehow get accepted to or rejected from places they didn't think they would. It's really arbitrary.

    By the way, physics grad school admissions for international applicants is pretty hardcore as well. Not as hardcore as undergrad, in that one *knows* what is expected of them (excellent grades, letters, PGRE, research fit and research experience), while at the undergrad level, it's those things (SAT instead of GRE, etc...) but it's more of a shot in the dark.

    I was *not* going to apply at all, but I changed my mind earlier this year and decided to go for it. I know for a fact that I won't be able to get the same educational experience anywhere else in the world. If that fails, well, I guess I'm gonna have to suck it up and make the best out of the other opportunities I can find.

    I begrudgingly sent those e-mails. I thought the same. Until I received a few replies and as it turns out, not every school wants me to fill the apps the same way.

    When I'm doing this, I'm going all the way. I want this bad. Boy, that came out wrong, but I think I've made my point. Doing things my way or doing what "looks right" won't cut it. The way things are looking up, I may have to send additional information with app A but not with app B, and that's fine. (for e.g, college A wants counselor recommendations from all schools if possible, while college B doesn't; college B wants this field to remain blank and college C thinks that it should be filled in so and so way)

    Yep, but you had very logical reasons (i.e, "moving" - don't want to give anything away in public) for that. I...well, not so much. Unless I explain it.

    Death, i.e the end result, is not an immediate concern. It happens and then - boom - I'm done. The next 3-4 years here V/S USA V/S elsewhere is what I'm primarily concerned with, and even if all of these options ultimately result with "bachelor's degree in XYZ", how I get there is very important to me.

    I'm fairly miserable here, and I need a more challenging environment to change that. In the event that I don't get in, which is *quite likely*, it won't be the end. I'll still gotta live. I still gotta figure out how to make things work. Nevertheless, I would be deluding myself if I thought that it would be as good as elsewhere.
  9. Oct 10, 2012 #8
    I feel your pain. My high school was full of slackers who did not take school seriously. I felt ashamed of going to the same high school as them. During my application, I was extremely worried about whether I would end up in some damned party school. I must point out that I went to high school in the US, despite being an int'l student. Fortunately, I ended up in an excellent engineering school full of hard-working students like myself (and I love it!). But the heavy workload sometimes makes me miss my high school, for all its mediocrity.

    If you badly want to be in the US, you MUST apply to a wide range of schools. Don't just apply to top schools. Hopefully you get in somewhere you belong, with work to keep you busy. The application process is very difficult, not because it involves a lot of work, but becauses of the heavy anxiety. It's a feeling I had not very long ago, but the feeling I guarantee you is temporary, and the challenge you face involves you not making fatal blunders during this time, and one of those fatal blunders is constantly worrying about whether or not you get in. Enjoy this year, utilize to learn important things about life. I kept myself busy during this time by reading books about economics and psychology. Every year is important. This time constitutes over 1/100 of your lifetime (assuming you live less than 100). Everyone regrets over-worrying about college, you can't blame yourself for worrying, but do make an effort to relax yourself during this time.

    If, in the small chance that your applications go very badly (i.e. you end up getting rejected everywhere), then either you are terrible academically (which I know you are not) or some grave technical error screwed up your application (which is why you need to apply to many places to reduce the consequences of this happening).

    If you get in somewhere that's not very prestigious, but there's no other option and you feel bad about it, embrace the school that accepted you as you would a mother that adopts you and make the best of it. Remember you real passion is physics, not the "name" of your college. You might not fit in as well as you would at a top school, but think of "fitting in" as another physics problem (a very real problem). Otherwise you will fall prey to hubris.

  10. Oct 10, 2012 #9
    Thanks man.

    Yeah, "range of schools." The issue is that I can't really do that - at least, not as wide a range as I would have liked - because it's mostly the top schools which offer aid to international students. My college list, as of right now, includes 2-3 schools in the top 20 (only one of which is top 10, I think?) and the rest are in to the top 30 to 75. If I could go any lower, I would, but that's around the part where financial aid stops being available.
    Last edited: Oct 10, 2012
  11. Oct 11, 2012 #10
    Oh that's not so bad. I thought you only applied to Ivy leagues, because that's what most int'l students do (and this is disappointing).

    Have you done a collegeboard search? Collegeboard can give you a good list based on your own preferences.


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