Upper Mids Begin College Process


David Li ’21

From left: Chris Doyle, director of admission at Marist College, Greg Roberts, dean of admission at the University of Virginia, and Peaches Valdes, dean of admission at Hamilton College, share tips with Upper Mids and their parents.

As the school year moves into its second half, some Upper Mids are beginning to feel the pressure of the upcoming college application process. Last weekend, Upper Mid students and their parents gathered for the unofficial start to the college process – the Upper Mid College Forum. 

The Forum was a two-day event. On Friday night at 6:30 p.m., Upper Mids and their parents were addressed by deans of admission from five colleges: Dartmouth College, Hamilton College, Marist College, University of Richmond, and the University of Virginia. On Saturday morning, students and parents then attended a two-and-a-half hour long panel held by the representatives from the five schools. Following the admissions panel were two break-out sessions, in which the Upper Mids participated in student panels led by Seniors, mock admission exercises, and presentations on financial aid, special-interest admissions, and gap year opportunities. After lunch, students and parents met with their college advisors.

Mr. Richard Hazelton, director of college advising, hoped that the Forum would give the students a strong start to the college application process. “I think some of the key takeaways for student[s] is that there are a wealth of very strong academic institutions out there,” said Mr. Hazelton, “and that [they] should be really excited about the process, [which] is really about finding a place that fits them.” 

The College Office also wants to help the students and their parents embrace the diversity of college institutions available to them. Mr. Hazelton stated, “We are trying to counter the belief that there is only a very small group of elite colleges that the students should aspire to. First of all, the group of elite colleges is a really big group; what we are trying to do at its core is to have the students and the parents keep an open mind and not operate on preconceived ideas and rankings.”

Like many Upper Mids, Zak Billo ’20 attended the Forum hoping to discover something new about the college process. He said, “After listening to all of the admission officers, I was very surprised by their depth of personality and humanity. My biggest takeaway was that being genuine is the key to a successful application. I am both excited and startled about the vastness of my options.” 

Other Upper Mids saw this event as an opportunity to resolve confusion about the college process. Kelly Zuo ’20 said, “I was surprised to hear that for college admissions, essay-reading actually is the most exciting part when reviewing a student’s file. They truly hope students can show them their interesting and human side that differentiates them from just a profile with transcripts.” 

Seniors who attended the Forum last year enjoyed and appreciated the program. “The college process is really not as stressful as everyone says it is,” recalled Dylan Kalaydjian ’19. “I was looking for a good introduction [to the whole application process] and I think I found that in the Upper Mid College Forum. If I could tell the current Upper Mids anything, it would be to start early. You have so much time, so take advantage of it and don’t put it off.”