An Ivy Dean Demystifies the College Search and Application Process

On the Admissions Beat, veteran dean of admissions Lee Coffin from Dartmouth College and a range of guests provide high school students and parents, as well as their counselors and other mentors, with "news you can use" at each step on the pathway to college. With a welcoming, reassuring perspective and an approach intended to build confidence in prospective applicants, Dean Coffin offers credible information, insights, and guidance—from the earliest days of the college search, to applications, decision-making, and arrival on campus. He does so by drawing on nearly 30 years of experience as an admissions leader at some of the nation's most prestigious institutions. Season 5 launched January 30, with new episodes dropping weekly throughout the winter and spring.

S5 EPISODE 5

Admissions Moms Who Know Too Much?

What would it be like to be a former admissions officer guiding your own child through a college search? While they know a lot more than most parents, the emotions they experience as parents—paired with the lessons they learned from inside an admissions committee—are likely relatable (and instructive) for any parent. Listen in as Lee Coffin of Dartmouth interviews three former colleagues who are now "admissions moms": Ronnie Bernier Burnett, former assistant director of admissions at Connecticut College; Kathy Cho Seldow, former assistant director of admissions at Tufts; and Courtney Minden, former vice president of enrollment management at Babson. 

Admissions Moms Who Know Too Much?

A transcript is available for this episode.

S5 EPISODE 4

Keep Calm and Carry On: Navigating the FAFSA Rollout

This week, Admissions Beat wades into the topic of college affordability. For high school seniors, we provide up-to-the-minute insight and tips on navigating the rollout of the new FAFSA, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, which is causing delays in award calculations. For high school juniors, we introduce the topic of affordability as a "non-negotiable" factor as you and your families work toward assembling a college list. Joining host Lee Coffin, Dartmouth's dean of admissions and financial aid, are G. Dino Koff, director of financial aid at Dartmouth, and journalist Charlotte Albright.

Keep Calm and Carry On: Navigating the FAFSA Rollout

A transcript is available for this episode.

 

S5 EPISODE 3

Take an 'Existential Selfie'

How might a high school junior begin the journey of self-discovery that is the bedrock of the college search? In an encore episode of Admissions Beat, host Lee Coffin of Dartmouth recommends that prospective applicants point a virtual camera at themselves and snap an "existential selfie." It's an exercise that can reveal values, priorities, and guiding questions. His guests, all undergraduates at Dartmouth, provide counsel on the early steps in the college search, including advice they would give their 16- or 17-year-old selves. They are: Andrea Agola '26 of Burke, VA; Garrett Crouch '26 of Edmond, OK; Olivia Koo '26 of Los Alamos, NM; and Batuhan Saridede '26 of Izmit, Turkey.

Take an 'Existential Selfie'

A transcript is available for this episode.

 

S5 EPISODE 2

Searching

Throughout this winter, 11th graders will find themselves seated across from a college counselor in their high school, perhaps for the first time. The topic: kicking off a process of search and discovery intended to yield a college list by the start of senior year. But where and how to begin? To answer that question, Admissions Beat host Lee Coffin of Dartmouth is joined by two former university admissions officers and longtime "friends of the pod": Sherri Geller, co-director of college counseling at Gann Academy in Waltham, Massachusetts, and Ronnie McKnight, associate director of college counseling at the Paideia School in Atlanta.

Searching

A transcript is available for this episode.

 

S5 EPISODE 1

High School Juniors: Your College Search Begins

For our Season 5 premiere, Admissions Beat turns its attention to high school juniors. Host Lee Coffin, dean of admissions at Dartmouth, previews what prospective applicants can expect in the months ahead. He encourages them to start with an "existential selfie" to understand what they're seeking in a college experience. He and his guests also provide tips on building a college list and assessing a campus's community and culture. Joining Dean Coffin are Thyra Briggs, vice president for admissions and financial aid at Harvey Mudd College, and Jacques Steinberg, co-author of "The College Conversation: A Practical Companion for Parents to Guide Their Children Along the Path to Higher Education."


High School Juniors: Your College Search Begins

A transcript is available for this episode.

 

S4 EPISODE 15

Season 4 Finale: 'Twas Two Weeks Til the Deadline

In the Season 4 finale, Admissions Beat host Lee Coffin reaches into his holiday grab bag for a handful of end-of-year topics. First up, a visit to the Admissions Beat newsroom with journalist Charlotte Albright and Darryl Tiggle, director of college counseling at the Friends School of Baltimore, for answers to the questions students pose in various online forums as the application deadlines draw near. Then Mark Anderson, owner of MWA Fitness in Boston, has tips on stress management for applicants and admissions officers alike. Finally, Dean Coffin closes with a holiday message you won't want to miss.

A transcript is available for this episode.

S4 EPISODE 14

Take an 'Existential Selfie,' Through a Rural Lens

Admissions Beat host Lee Coffin encourages applicants to periodically snap an "existential selfie," an exercise to zoom in on their values and priorities. This week, he and his guests train that metaphorical lens on high school students from rural backgrounds. For many, that upbringing can be a powerful theme in the stories they tell in their college applications. Joining Coffin are Kim Jackson, Director of Advising and Scholar Support at Lenfest Scholars Foundation, which serves college applicants from rural Pennsylvania, and Jacques Steinberg, a Lenfest board member and co-author of "The College Conversation: A Practical Companion for Parents to Guide Their Children Along the Path to Higher Education."


Take an 'Existential Selfie,' Through a Rural Lens

A transcript is available for this episode.

S4 EPISODE 13

Interview Tips: Let Your Life Speak

Sometimes it's required, sometimes it's recommended, sometimes it's optional. Sometimes it's conducted on campus by an admissions officer or college senior, while at others it's at a library or Starbucks with an alumnus. It's an admissions interview. It's also an opportunity to build life skills. This week on Admissions Beat, host Lee Coffin of Dartmouth conducts a mock interview with a high school senior from Los Angeles. They are then joined by Erica Rosales of College Match, a nonprofit, to share feedback and tips, including ways to make an interview feel more like a conversation and less like a dental appointment.


Interview Tips: Let Your Life Speak

A transcript is available for this episode.

S4 EPISODE 12

One-on-One with the Nation's 'Chief Admissions Counselor'

If anyone could lay claim to the title of "chief admissions counselor" for the nation's millions of college-bound students, it would probably be Angel B. Pérez. A first-generation college student from the South Bronx and longtime admissions dean, Perez currently serves as CEO of the National Association for College Admission Counseling, or NACAC, a membership organization of more than 25,000 admissions officers, high school counselors, and other access professionals. In a one-on-one conversation with Dartmouth's Lee Coffin, Perez offers context, perspective, and analysis of the major forces currently upending the process of applying to college and paying for it, as well as tips for navigating that landscape.


One-on-One with the Nation's 'Chief Admissions Counselor'

A transcript is available for this episode.

S4 EPISODE 11

Navigating Thanksgiving Queries from Curious Relatives

If you're a high school senior in the United States, you may be seated around a Thanksgiving table where the turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce is accompanied by a heavy dollop of questions served up by relatives curious about your college admissions process. Fear not: this week on Admissions Beat, host Lee Coffin of Dartmouth and his guests lay out a holiday buffet with an array of talking points and other strategies to help students respond (or not) to the range of probing questions coming, however heartfelt and well-meaning. These include: How's your search going? Where are you applying? What's your first choice? Did you apply early? Pulling up a virtual dining room chair for this week's conversation: friends of the pod Jennifer Simons of Bright Horizons College Coach and Matthew Hyde of Trinity College return for a fun reflection on navigating tricky holiday conversations about a college search.


Navigating Thanksgiving Queries from Curious Relatives

A transcript is available for this episode.

S4 EPISODE 10

Fifty Podversations! An Admissions Beat Anniversary Highlight Reel

To commemorate the 50th episode of Admissions Beat, a milestone we reached earlier this season, host Lee Coffin and producer Charlotte Albright revisit some of the podcast's most practical and enduring advice for students, families, and counselors. Their tour guide for this auditory look back is Luke Grayson, a Dartmouth junior from Seaham, England, who highlights conversations that resonated with him – and ones he believes speak to today's high school seniors and juniors. Among those greatest hits are tips on: sizing up a campus; building a focused and balanced list; being skeptical about the word "best"; keeping testing in perspective; and enjoying 12thgrade.


Fifty Podversations! An Admissions Beat Anniversary Highlight Reel

A transcript is available for this episode

S4 EPISODE 9

College Affordability? Ignore the Sticker Price!

Wellesley economist Phil Levine and Dino Koff, Dartmouth's director of financial aid, join host Lee Coffin for insights on college affordability and the net price calculators that often guide families through that complicated but essential question. Levine advises families to ignore the sticker price: "What will this college cost me?" is a more useful framing of this essential question.. The aid experts also offer guidance on navigating the sometimes-fuzzy vocabulary of financial aid, completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (aka, FAFSA), and the role of debt in financing higher education.


College Affordability? Ignore the Sticker Price!

A transcript is available for this episode

S4 EPISODE 8

Data Dive, Part 2: Standardized Testing

In the conclusion of their two-part conversation, Yale's Jeremiah Quinlan and Emily Roper-Doten from Clark continue their conversation with host Lee Coffin about the academic data that populates an application. This week, the group of deans focus on the role of standardized testing as part of the academic assessment. Optional or required, they ponder how does testing fits into an admission officer's academic evaluation of each student.

Data Dive, Part 2: Standardized Testing

 

S4 EPISODE 7

Data Dive, Part 1: The High School Transcript

In the first of a two-part conversation about the academic data that populates an application, Yale's Jeremiah Quinlan and Emily Roper-Doten from Clark join host Lee Coffin to discuss the high school transcript as "the foundational element" of an application. The trio reflects on an admission officer's assessment of curriculum, grades, and "patterns" as key metrics of academic merit, and they offer "a way of understanding the numbers and letters that dance around a college application, what they mean, and how we use them."


Data Dive, Part 1: The High School Transcript

A transcript is available for this episode.

S4 EPISODE 6

Acceptance: A Conversation with Author Emi Nietfeld

Author and mental health activist Emi Nietfeld visits Admissions Beat for a thought-provoking and candid conversation with host Lee Coffin about her 2022 memoir, "Acceptance." Named one of the Best Books of the Year by National Public Radio, "Acceptance" recounts Emi's journey from foster care and a residential treatment center to the Ivy League, which she envisioned as her escape to safety. As high school seniors imagine college essays in the weeks ahead, the pair consider the art and challenges of framing an authentic personal narrative in a college application and the risk/reward of presenting oneself as "the perfect overcomer" in that process.


Acceptance: A Conversation with Author Emi Nietfeld

A transcript is available for this episode.

S4 EPISODE 5

Let Your Life Speak Through Your College Essay

In the 50th episode of Admissions Beat, host Lee Coffin from Dartmouth College welcomes college counselors Sherri Geller from Gann Academy in Waltham, Mass., and Ronnie McKnight from Atlanta's Paideia School for a timely conversation about the college admissions essay as an essential component of any application. The trio of veteran admission experts channels the Quaker saying "Let your life speak" as they share insights and advice for high school seniors about drafting an effective personal narrative as a compliment to the academic data in the application.


Let Your Life Speak Through Your College Essay

A transcript is available for this episode.

S4 EPISODE 4

S4 EPISODE 3

An Admissions Checklist for Jittery Seniors, Part 2

Picking up where last week's episode left off, Admissions Beat host Lee Coffin and his guests continue their conversation about the ways high school seniors (and parents, too) can address feelings of uneasiness as their college application process gets underway. Coffin, Dartmouth's Dean of Admissions, explores the role of high school transcripts (and the patterns admissions officers discern within them), teacher recommendations (and the degree to which they matter), and the various ways parents can best support their children in the coming weeks and months (including talking about family finances and visiting campuses.) Coffin is joined once again by Kate Boyle Ramsdell, director of college counseling at Noble and Greenough School in Dedham, Mass.; Erica Rosales, executive director of College Match, a nonprofit organization in Los Angeles that works with low-income students, and Darryl Tiggle, director of college counseling at Friends School of Baltimore.

An Admissions Checklist for Jittery Seniors, Part 2

A transcript is available for this episode.

S4 EPISODE 2

An Admissions Checklist for Jittery Seniors, Part 1

In the first of a two-part episode, Admissions Beat host Lee Coffin turns his attention to the high school graduating class of 2024, who may be feeling uneasy about the college admissions process as their senior year gets underway. Coffin, Dartmouth's Dean of Admissions, imagines them in this "back to school moment" as "looking forward and saying, 'Uh-oh, I have to apply to college.' " Guest Kate Boyle Ramsdell, director of college counseling at Noble and Greenough School in Dedham, Mass., agrees: "Things just got real." To work through the many moving parts of a senior's internal conversation, and to strategize the series of tasks and decisions that await each prospective applicant this fall, Coffin is also joined by Erica Rosales, executive director of College Match, a nonprofit organization in Los Angeles that works with low-income students, and Darryl Tiggle, director of college counseling at Friends School of Baltimore.

Admissions Checklist for Jittery Seniors, Part 1

A transcript is available for this episode.

S4 EPISODE 1

A Guide to Navigating the Admissions News Beat

In the Season 4 premiere of Admissions Beat, host Lee Coffin, dean of admissions at Dartmouth,  assesses the extraordinary and ongoing college admissions news cycle in recent months. He also provides practical advice for applicants, parents, and counselors on how to understand the news and steer through it as the new admission cycle gets underway. Among the topics that he and his guests discuss: the U.S. Supreme Court decision on race-conscious admissions; the potential pitfalls of artificial intelligence when applied to a college application essay; test-optional admissions policies, and the consideration of legacy preferences in admissions. Joining him are Elena Hicks, assistant vice provost and dean of admission at Southern Methodist University, and Jacques Steinberg, former New York Times journalist and co-author of "The College Conversation: A Practical Companion for Parents to Guide Their Children Along the Path to Higher Education."

A Guide to Navigating the Admissions News Beat

A transcript is available for this episode.

SEASON FOUR

Season 4 Teaser!

Admissions Beat will return for its fourth season on Sept. 12. Whether you're new to the podcast or a past listener, our goal endures: to support applicants, as well as their parents and counselors, through the search, application, and financial aid process. Host Lee Coffin, Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid at Dartmouth, provides a preview of what you can expect from this fall's episodes.

Season 4 Teaser!

 

S3 BONUS EPISODE

Bonus Episode: The Supreme Court, Race, and Admissions

On June 29, 2023, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down race-conscious admissions policies at Harvard University and the University of North Carolina. In this special edition of the Admissions Beat, host Lee Coffin, the Dean of Admissions at Dartmouth, explains the practical implications of the decision for students—especially those who will be applying to college this coming fall—paying particular attention to application essays and other narrative elements. Joining him for the discussion are Rafael Figueroa, a former admissions officer at Wesleyan and Occidental who is currently the dean of college guidance at Albuquerque Academy in New Mexico, and Jacques Steinberg, a former New York Times journalist who is the author of two college admissions books: The Gatekeepers and The College Conversation: A Practical Companion for Parents to Guide Their Children Along the Path to Higher Education. Coffin and his guests also provide insight and advice for the parents and counselors who will be helping guide applicants this fall, and in the years ahead. 


Bonus Episode: The Supreme Court, Race, and Admissions

A transcript is available for this episode

S3 EPISODE 15

Season 3 Finale: Live With Parents!

As the 2022-23 college admissions cycle draws to a close, Admissions Beat host Lee Coffin is joined by an audience of parents for the recording of the Season 3 finale. Gathered together on the campus of Dartmouth College for an admitted student open house, the parents current high school seniors share perspectives on this year's process. They also draw on their first-hand experience to provide advice to the parents of high school juniors as they guide their children into admissions prime time. Moderating the discussion is Jacques Steinberg, co-author of "The College Conversation: A Practical Companion for Parents to Guide Their Children along the Path to Higher Education."


Season 3 Finale: Live With Parents!

A transcript is available for this episode.

S3 EPISODE 14

For Seniors: It's The Home Stretch

In this week's episode of Admissions Beat, Dartmouth Dean of Admissions Lee Coffin speaks directly to those high school seniors who still have a college decision to make. "A big decision," as he puts it. As the May 1 deadline draws near, Dean Coffin offers students (and parents, too) more than a dozen, gut-check questions that, when taken as a whole, comprise a checklist for the final countdown to enrollment. Some of those questions are pragmatic (To what degree will affordability be the deciding factor?) Others are academic (What about the faculty and resources they offer?) Still others verge on the metaphysical (Can you imagine yourself being happy?) Dean Coffin also seeks to instill confidence. "Whatever sweatshirt you ultimately pull on,'' he advises, "know that it's your choice, it's a good fit, and embrace it."


For Seniors: It's The Home Stretch

A transcript is available for this episode.

S3 EPISODE 13

Academic Lessons from the First Year of College

With May 1 looming as the deadline for applicants to make a final decision on where to enroll, three Dartmouth first-year students reflect on their academic transition from high school to college. They provide firsthand perspectives on course selection, time management, and the importance of letting go any lingering belief that the college experience can be perfect. (Spoiler alert: it never is.) Joining Admissions Beat host Lee Coffin are Dartmouth first-years Lexie Gauthier, from Ronan, Montana; Roman Jimenez, from Los Angeles; and Andrew Wilson, from Lincoln, New Hampshire.


Academic Lessons from the First Year of College

A transcript is available for this episode.

S3 EPISODE 12

Major Minor

Whether you're a high school senior, a high school junior, or a parent seeking to guide them, the question "So what's your major?" can seem premature. After all, most colleges and universities don't require a student to declare a major until the sophomore year. But reflecting on that question while still in high school can serve as a helpful exercise for students to contemplate what subjects they might like to study in college, and the extent to which that programming is offered at schools they are considering. In this encore episode from his previous podcast, The Search, Dartmouth Dean of Admissions Lee Coffin is joined by three members of the Dartmouth faculty — from the departments of engineering, philosophy and government — who provide advice on exploring academic interests at the collegiate level. They are Alexis Abramson, professor of engineering and Dean of the Thayer School of Engineering; Lisa Baldez, Professor of Government and Latin American, Latino and Caribbean Studies; and Sam Levy, Professor of Philosophy and Associate Dean of the Arts and Humanities.


Major Minor

A transcript is available for this episode.

S3 EPISODE 11

The Intersection of Athletics and Admissions

For many high school juniors, the college search and application process is deeply intertwined with an interest in playing a particular sport. For some applicants, that focus may be on an NCAA Division 1 program, where there could be opportunities to recruited and to receive a scholarship. Others may have their sights set on being a scholar-athlete playing at an institution designated as Division 2 or Division 3. For still others, it's having access to intramural sports that is of appeal. In an encore episode from the first season of Admissions Beat, host Lee Coffin provides students and parents with advice on how to navigate a range of scenarios for would-be collegiate student athletes. He also explains how those aspirations are taken into account in the admissions process. He's joined by Peter Roby, who has served as the interim director of athletics at Dartmouth, the director of athletics at Northeastern, and the men's basketball coach at Harvard.


The Intersection of Athletics and Admissions

A transcript is available for this episode.

S3 EPISODE 10

Seniors: The Next Decisions are Yours

Throughout their senior year of high school, but particularly in recent weeks, applicants for the college Class of 2027 have been receiving admissions decisions. Over the next four weeks, the tables will turn, as those students — in consultation with parents, counselors, and others — weigh a series of decisions of their own, based on the choices now in front of them. "In that time, you're going to make an informed decision about where you see yourself,'' says Admissions Beat host Lee Coffin, dean of admissions and financial aid at Dartmouth. "This episode, we'll help you go from here to there." Joining Coffin for that discussion are two veteran counselors and returning guests: Darryl Tiggle, director of college counseling at Friends School of Baltimore, and Jennifer Simons, senior manager at Bright Horizons College Coach, a company that offers college guidance to corporate employees as a benefit.


Seniors: The Next Decisions are Yours

A transcript is available for this episode.

S3 EPISODE 9

Inside the Admissions Selection Committee

Ever wonder how admissions officers decide which applicants to invite to join the incoming class? Jacques Steinberg, who wrote a New York Times best-seller, "The Gatekeepers: Inside the Admissions Process of a Premier College," based on a year of reporting at Wesleyan two decades ago, recently spent a day behind the closed doors of Dartmouth's undergraduate admissions selection committee. In this week's episode, he and host Lee Coffin, Dartmouth's dean of admissions and financial aid, discuss what Steinberg saw and heard, as Coffin and colleagues considered, debated and voted on the applications of dozens of candidates for the Class of 2027. Among the factors the admissions officers weighed: the narratives, personal as well as academic, that emerged from the various components of the students' applications.

Inside the Admissions Selection Committee

A transcript is available for this episode.

 

S3 EPISODE 8

Take an 'Existential Selfie': International Edition

The thought of pursuing a college or university education in the United States can be particularly daunting to students living in other countries. This week on Admissions Beat, host Lee Coffin interviews three current undergraduates who traveled from Brazil, Sri Lanka, and the United Kingdom to attend Dartmouth. They provide tips on how international students can search for, apply to, and, ultimately, thrive on an American campus. They also describe challenges they've overcome, as well as opportunities they've seized. Whether prospective applicants are from the U.S. or abroad, Dean Coffin encourages them to point a virtual camera at themselves and snap an "existential selfie." It's an exercise, introduced in the second episode of the current season of Admissions Beat, that can reveal values and priorities, as well as guiding questions.

Take an 'Existential Selfie': International Edition

A transcript is available for this episode.

S3 EPISODE 7

How Will We Pay For It?

As high school juniors and seniors navigate the college admissions process, they might consider that journey to be proceeding on parallel paths. The first encompasses elements like an institution's programming and sense of place. The second: how to pay for that experience. This week on Admissions Beat, in an encore episode drawn from its predecessor podcast series, The Search, host Lee Coffin of Dartmouth and his guests provide an overview of various financial aid forms and policies, as well as options to defray the cost of college. They do so with the goal of instilling perspective, knowledge and, ultimately, reassurance. Dean Coffin is joined by Dino Koff, director of financial aid at Dartmouth, and Erica Rosales, executive of director of College Match, a nonprofit organization in Los Angeles that works with low-income students.

How Will We Pay For It?

A transcript is available for this episode.

S3 EPISODE 6

Easing the Stress of the Search

Whether you're a student in the midst of the college search, or a supportive parent or guardian, feelings of stress and anxiety can be ever-present. At each stage in the application process, and even after arriving on campus, students are faced with tough decisions and lofty expectations. This week on Admissions Beat, host Lee Coffin, dean of admissions and financial aid at Dartmouth, discusses with his guests steps that applicants and their families can take to acknowledge sources of stress and manage it. They also give advice on how to discover opportunities for exploration—even joy—while being "present" in high school, and simultaneously discovering and pursuing a college where they might build on those experiences. Dean Coffin is joined by Maria Morales-Kent, director of college counseling at the Thacher School in Ojai, California, and Mary Pat McMahon, vice provost and vice president of student affairs at Duke University.


Easing the Stress of the Search

A transcript is available for this episode.

S3 EPISODE 5

Your Campus Visit Roadmap

If you've not done so already, many Admissions Beat listeners will soon embark on a campus visit, whether by road, rail or air, or perhaps via a keyboard and screen. To ensure you're prepared to get the most from that journey, host Lee Coffin, dean of admissions and financial aid at Dartmouth, has recruited two expert tour guides. They are Elena Hicks, assistant vice president and dean of admissions at Southern Methodist University, and the former dean of admissions at Loyola University, and Matthew Hyde, the dean of admissions at Trinity College, and the former dean of admissions at Lafayette College. They've got lots of advice for students and parents alike — including how, during a tour or information session, a parent might quietly deploy a strategically placed "elbow," which can signal "that might be something you should look into," while being careful not to express an opinion too strongly at this early stage of the search.


Your Campus Visit Roadmap

A transcript is available for this episode.

S3 EPISODE 4

Imagining Your College List

As we continue our focus on supporting high school juniors in the early activities of a college search, Admissions Beat encourages listeners to grab a pen and pad (or open a Google Doc or spreadsheet) to begin drafting a list of colleges to explore. Host Lee Coffin, Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid at Dartmouth,  describes that list as a document that will evolve over the coming months and continue to take shape, "place by place, for you to explore, for you to investigate." His guests this week are Darryl Tiggle, Director of College Counseling at the Baltimore Friends School, and a former admissions officer at Tufts University and Union College, and Jennifer Simons, senior manager at Bright Horizons College Coach, a company that offers college guidance to corporate employees as a benefit, and a former admissions officer at Barnard, Connecticut College, Northeastern and Tufts. They share plenty of advice on how to get a list started, including likening the early days of the college search to shopping for a pair of jeans. (Spoiler alert: in both instances, the fit is likely more important than the brand name.)  

Imagining Your College List

A transcript is available for this episode.

S3 EPISODE 3

Filtering Your Admissions Newsfeed

Mainstream media organizations have long covered the admissions process closely. And when those efforts are combined with observations and commentary across the digital spectrum, the results can feel dizzying and overwhelming to prospective applicants as well as parents. In this episode of Admissions Beat, host Lee Coffin and his guest dean provide context and perspective on the big headlines and related issues in the current admissions news cycle — including rankings, test-optional admissions policies, artificial intelligence (as it relates to application essays) and legal challenges to race as a factor in admissions. They also share tips on how to navigate the rush of information and quiet the noise. Coffin, the dean of admissions and financial aid at Dartmouth, is joined by Ronné Turner, vice provost of admissions and financial aid at Washington University in St. Louis, along with two journalists: Charlotte Albright, a longtime public radio reporter, and Jacques Steinberg, a former national education correspondent for The New York Times.

Filtering Your Admissions Newsfeed

A transcript is available for this episode.

S3 EPISODE 2

Take an 'Existential Selfie'

How might a high school junior embark on the journey of self-discovery that serves as the bedrock of the college search process? Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Lee Coffin, host of the Admissions Beat, recommends that prospective applicants begin by pointing a virtual camera at themselves and snapping an "existential selfie." It's an exercise that can reveal values and priorities, as well as guiding questions. On this week's podcast, he is joined by four guests, all of them first-year undergraduates at Dartmouth, to seek their counsel on the early steps in the college search, including advice they would give to their 16- or 17-year-old selves if they could turn back the clock. They are: Andrea Agola '26 of Burke, VA; Garrett Crouch '26 of Edmond, OK; Olivia Koo '26 of Los Alamos, NM; and Batuhan Saridede '26 of Izmit, Turkey.


Take an 'Existential Selfie'

A transcript is available for this episode.

S3 EPISODE 1

Overture: Your College Search Begins

In the opening episode of the third season of "Admissions Beat," host Lee Coffin of Dartmouth College turns his attention to high school juniors and those who support them in a college search. And just as the opening bars of an overture herald the beginning of a Broadway musical, Dean Coffin encourages students to start the college search on a note of self discovery. To look within, at what they value and prioritize, before looking outward and assembling a list of colleges that might fit the bill. It's a process he likens to taking an "existential selfie," adding: "You need to focus on you, before you focus on us." Dean Coffin is joined by Meredith Reynolds, a former admissions officer at Tufts University and currently the Associate Director of College Guidance at the Roxbury Latin School in Massachusetts, and Jacques Steinberg, co-author of The College Conversation: A Practical Companion for Parents to Guide Their Children Along the Path to Higher Education.

Overture: Your College Search Begins

A transcript is available for this episode.

S2 EPISODE 11

Final Tips for Seniors, Part 2: Making Sense of Early Decisions

In the second part of our two-part season finale, Admissions Beat lays out the decisions that applicants will soon receive in response to early applications they submitted this fall — admit, decline or defer — as well as various strategies they might consider employing in response. Whether you are a high school senior who applied under a binding program (such as early decision) or non-binding (early action) — or the parent of someone who did so — host Lee Coffin of Dartmouth runs through a series of scenarios, including those where financial aid could be a determining factor. Dean Coffin also shares plenty of "news you can use" for applicants considering applying in the upcoming, early decision II rounds at some colleges. And he and his guests provide words of reassurance for those who chose not to submit early applications. Joining Dean Coffin are two veteran counselors with high school and college experience: Sherri Geller, the co-director of college counseling at Gann Academy in Waltham, Mass., and a former admissions officer at Brandeis and Northeastern, and Ronnie McKnight, associate director of college counseling at Paideia School in Atlanta, and a former admissions officer at Emory and Presbyterian College in South Carolina.


Final Tips for Seniors, Part 2: Making Sense of Early Decisions

A transcript is available for this episode

S2 EPISODE 10

Final Tips for Seniors, Part 1

With most applicants entering the final weeks of the college application season, Dean Lee Coffin of Dartmouth has assembled a "home stretch" toolkit of advice for high school seniors and their parents. In Part 1 of the two-part Admissions Beat season finale, the action items include: putting the last touches on a balanced college list; assembling the remaining pieces of an application; monitoring deadlines, and being sure that students register, typically via email, for the application portals that colleges use to request and convey time-sensitive information. But the most timely advice may be for those applicants who find themselves cornered  at their Thanksgiving tables by well-intentioned relatives seeking to pepper them (as opposed to the mashed potatoes) with rapid-fire questions about their college admissions process. Joining Dean Coffin are two seasoned counselors with experience on both the high school and college sides of the admissions equation: Sherri Geller, the co-director of college counseling at Gann Academy in Waltham, Mass., and a former admissions officer at Brandeis and Northeastern, and Ronnie McKnight, associate director of college counseling at Paideia School in Atlanta, and a former admissions officer at Emory and Presbyterian College in South Carolina.


Final Tips for Seniors, Part 1

A transcript is available for this episode

S2 EPISODE 9

Decoding Transcripts

How do admissions officers read and interpret high school transcripts, the official academic record of the courses an applicant has taken in high school and the grades received? And what role do "school profiles" play? They are the narrative descriptions that high school counselors prepare for admissions offices, chock full of context on a school's student body as a whole, and the wider community the school serves, among other details critical to assessing an applicant and application. In this encore episode of Admissions Beat, from November 2021, host Lee Coffin of Dartmouth explains that transcripts are so much more than "numbers," and that those primary source documents reveal not only how an applicant has performed in the classroom thus far, but their potential to soar in a university setting. Dean Coffin is joined by Calvin Wise, director of recruitment at Johns Hopkins University, along with two experienced college counselors: Darryl Tiggle of the Friends School of Baltimore, a Quaker school, and Candice Mackey of the Los Angeles Center for Enriched Studies, a large public high school.


Decoding Transcripts

A transcript is available for this episode

S2: EPISODE 8

What We Wish We Knew: Advice for Today's College Applicants from Three College Students

This week on Admissions Beat, host Lee Coffin goes deep in conversation with three Dartmouth students to elicit their perspective on the college admissions process, as well as their advice for current high school seniors in particular. In a frank and wide-ranging conversation, the three undergrads touch on the emotional stress of their admissions process, as well as steps to mitigate it. (Each said they wished they had "chilled out" more.) They provide advice on telling your story with authenticity (and without straining to imagine what an admissions officer might want to hear). They share ways to research and consider options for financial aid at various institutions. And they emphasize the importance of being open to self-discovery and exploration. They also reflect on those aspects of the admissions process that are within an applicant's control, including the unique attributes that each student brings to it. Or, as one of the panelists says: if the admissions process is a puzzle, "you are your own individual puzzle piece." Dean Coffin's guests are: Emma Johnson, a junior from Omaha, Nebraska, majoring in quantitative social sciences with an emphasis on theater as a double major; Gavin Fry, a sophomore from Hornersville, Missouri, currently studying earth science, and Daniel Hernandez, a first-year student from Los Angeles interested in studying government and Mandarin language. 

What We Wish We Knew: Advice for Today's College Applicants from Three College Students

A transcript is available for this episode

S2: BONUS EPISODE

'One Factor Among Many'

On Oct. 31, 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in cases challenging the long-standing use of race as "one factor among many" in the undergraduate admissions processes of Harvard University and the University of North Carolina. While the Justices' eventual decision is not expected to affect the selection of the Class of 2027, it could have a seismic effect on the processes that admissions offices will use to choose future classes. In this special episode of Admissions Beat, host Lee Coffin, the dean of admissions at Dartmouth College, is joined by James Washington Jr., Dartmouth's director of admissions for strategic initiatives and the former director of admissions at the University of New Hampshire. Together, they explain how, for a half century, admissions offices have been legally permitted to consider an applicant's race and ethnicity as one component in an application — along with grades, teacher recommendations, essays, academic interests and activities, among other elements — as well as the many reasons why. The two veteran admissions officers also take a few moments to gaze into the future, especially if, as is widely expected, the Court rules that the use of race as one factor among many is unconstitutional.


'One Factor Among Many'

A transcript is available for this episode.

S2: EPISODE 7

Dollars and Sense: A Financial Aid Primer

For many families, the cost of a college education — as well as considering the various options for paying for it, and understanding how to apply for financial aid — is among the most stressful aspects of the college search. This week on  Admissions Beat, host Lee Coffin, dean of admissions and financial aid at Dartmouth, is joined by Gordon "Dino" Koff, Dartmouth's director of financial aid. Together, they break down and explain each step on the path to making a college education affordable. Along the way, they provide definitions of key terms and a checklist of questions about financial aid that applicants and their parents can use to assess the affordability of each institution on their list. This week's discussion is moderated by former New York Times journalist Jacques Steinberg, co-author of The College Conversation: A Practical Companion for Parents to Guide Their Children Along the Path to Higher Education.

Dollars and Sense: A Financial Aid Primer

A transcript is available for this episode.

S2: EPISODE 6

Finding Your Place

For would-be college applicants, questions about "place" are crucial to the discovery and search process. Place may mean the geographic setting and physical attributes of a campus, and whether students can envision themselves there. But it can also encompass dorms and classrooms, and whether classes are primarily taught by faculty or assistants; the quality of support services, whether academic or social-emotional; and climate, not just the average temperature but also how welcoming and inclusive a college community is. This week on the Admissions Beat, in an encore episode of its predecessor broadcast, The Search, from April 2021, host Lee Coffin of Dartmouth walks students through the many dimensions and definitions of place, and ways they can take the measure of it as they finalize their application plans as the deadlines approach.  He's joined by two guests, both from Duke University: Mary Pat McMahon, vice provost and vice president of student affairs, and Gary Bennett, a professor of psychology and neuroscience who is vice provost for undergraduate education.


Finding Your Place

There is a transcript available for this episode.

S2: EPISODE 5

The Pull of Prestige

As high school seniors seek to narrow the lists of colleges to which they are considering applying, they might size up the potential finalists against a rubric that Dean Lee Coffin of Dartmouth calls "The Four P's." They are: program, people, place and price. But to what extent should a fifth "P" — an institution's relative prestige, or reputation — factor into the decision-making process? And what about a key driver of reputation — an institution's standing in the rankings assembled by U.S. News and other entities? In this episode of Admissions Beat, Dean Coffin and his guests explain — and provide perspective on — each of these elements of the college search process, and others, too. He does so in conversation with three veteran college counselors: Kate Ramsdale of the Noble and Greenough School in Dedham, Mass.; Steve Soud of the Isador Newman School in New Orleans; and Geanine Thompson of a Los Angeles-based firm called the College Guru, which provides independent college advising services to families. Dean Coffin and his guests also acknowledge and address the role of emotions in the assembly of a college list — those of students, as well as of their parents and the other adults providing them guidance.

The Pull of Prestige

A transcript is available for this episode.

S2: EPISODE 4

Telling Your Story

Dean Lee Coffin of Dartmouth says that "any application to any college is the union of two things: data and voice." In this encore episode of Admissions Beat, first aired in July 2020 on its predecessor podcast, The Search, Dean Coffin turns to the storytelling and narrative elements (and opportunities) of an application. Along with guest Meredith Reynolds, a former Tufts admissions officer who is the associate director of college guidance of Roxbury Latin School in Boston, Dean Coffin provides practical advice and perspective on the two main writing sections of most college applications: the personal statement, as well as the short, supplemental questions that are specific to particular colleges. They are also joined by two college applicants — Rashad Brown Mitchell and Maya Newell — who read excerpts from their college application essays, with Ms. Reynolds and Dean Coffin providing analysis in real-time. As Ms. Reynolds puts it: "Admissions officers are just humans who love a good story."

Telling Your Story

A transcript is available for this episode.

S2: EPISODE 3

A Road Map through the Testing Landscape

For high school seniors, the standardized testing landscape is more of a maze than usual these days. In this episode of "Admissions Beat," host Lee Coffin of Dartmouth provides tips on navigating the complex topography of testing. He is joined by two guests: Stu Schmill, Dean of Admissions and Student Financial Services at MIT, and Leigh Weisenburger, Vice President for Enrollment and Dean of Admission and Financial Aid at Bates College. Together, they explain the various approaches to the ACT and SAT in the admissions offices of the nation's more than 2,000 four-year colleges and universities, including those that are test-optional, test-blind, test-flexible, or test-required. Dean Coffin and his guests also provide advice on whether applicants should choose to take such tests when not required to do so, and, if so, how they might decide whether to submit their scores as an element of an application. The deans then take listeners into their respective offices, as they describe how they and their colleagues use SAT and ACT scores as one component among many in the broader admissions process (spoiler alert: context, including as drawn from an applicant's background, matters).


A Road Map through the Testing Landscape

A transcript is available for this episode.

S2: EPISODE 2

A High School Senior Interviews the Dean

This week on "The Admissions Beat," the tables are turned on our host, Dartmouth Dean of Admissions Lee Coffin, as he's interviewed by high school senior Aidan ElDifrawi and his father, Ash, on the most recent episode of their podcast, "Hold Me Back," nominated for a People's Choice Award.  Their conversation, which we're pleased to cross-post on the "Admissions Beat" channel, ranged widely. Over the course of the discussion, Dean Coffin shared questions that every prospective college applicant should ask themselves. (What is it that makes you happy? Why did this particular institution land on your list?) He provided reminders of the urgency of this moment on the admissions calendar. (The Common App is live. It is time to start typing.)   And he underscored the need to keep the college admissions process in perspective, including for those who aspire to attend the nation's most highly selective institutions. (Give yourself space to enjoy your senior year. Make room for joy.)


A High School Senior Interviews the Dean

A transcript is available for this episode.

S2 EPISODE 1

Welcome to Senior Fall: It's College Application Season!

In the Season 2 premiere of the Admissions Beat, host Lee Coffin, Dartmouth College's dean of admissions and financial aid, provides a detailed overview of this fall's college search and application process—with a goal of ensuring high school seniors across the U.S. and around the world, and the parents and other adults who are supporting them, are ready for the tasks, decisions and deadlines in the weeks and months ahead. On today's episode, Dean Coffin is joined by New York Times Best-Selling author Jacques Steinberg, co-author of The College Conversation: A Practical Companion for Parents to Guide Their Children Along the Path to Higher Education, published in paperback by Penguin Random House last year.

Welcome to Senior Fall: It's College Application Season!

A transcript is available for this episode.

S1 EPISODE 17

Decisions Are Out!

It's finally here, the end of this year's admissions cycle (and soon, the beginning of a new one). Applicants are on edge as they wait for the long-awaited email or letter to arrive, letting them know which colleges or universities are inviting them to join the class of 2026. Lee Coffin and producer Charlotte Albright talk candidly and practically about how to process that news, and how to sift through the forthcoming avalanche of media reports touting, in many selective schools, historically low acceptance rates.  

Decisions Are Out!

A transcript is available for this episode.

S1 EPISODE 16

Marching Forward

For high school juniors, March opens the starting gate to a yearlong marathon. It's time to begin the journey toward colleges or universities that offer what they need, what they want, and what they can afford. After a fact-filled news roundup, host Lee Coffin and producer Charlotte Albright devote an entire episode to answering questions that often arise when college admissions officers visit secondary schools. Whether or not you've attended one of these "kickoffs," listen here for advice that will make your college search less stressful and more successful.   

Marching Forward

A transcript is available for this episode.

S1 EPISODE 15

Let's Hear It for the Humanities

"What are you going to do with that?" It's a question many an English or history major hears from parents who are concerned that they may not find meaningful, gainful employment after graduation. But data show that humanities students are employed at rates comparable to other majors, earn good salaries, and do increasingly well over the course of their careers. Scott Muir, project director for Study the Humanities, an initiative of the National Humanities Alliance Foundation, joins Barbara Will, Dartmouth's A. and R. Newbury Professor of English, for an eye-opening conversation with host Lee Coffin and producer Charlotte Albright about the benefits of a solid grounding in the humanities.

Let's Hear It for the Humanities

A transcript is available for this episode.

S1 EPISODE 14

Junior Kickoff Part 2

In this Junior Kickoff sequel, Lee Coffin asks his guests, Matt Hyde, assistant vice president and dean of admissions at Lafayette College, in Easton, Pa., and Kate Ramsdell, director of college counseling at Noble and Greenough School in Dedham, Mass., to help high school juniors and their parents get a sure-footed start on applying to college. Step one: know thyself. Step two: understand that the best school for you may be one you've never even heard of yet.

Junior Kickoff Part 2

A transcript is available for this episode.

S1: EPISODE 13

Junior Kickoff Part 1

This is the time of year when college admissions officers are invited to high schools for "junior kickoff" events, helping 11th graders get a sure-footed start on discovering, choosing, and applying to college. Consider this two-part episode a virtual kickoff, beginning with a roundup of news stories on the admissions beat, and followed, next week, by practical suggestions about how to begin your search. Lee Coffin's guests are Matt Hyde, assistant vice president and dean of admission at Lafayette College in Easton, Pa., and Kate Ramsdell, director of college counseling at Noble and Greenough School in Dedham, Mass.


Junior Kickoff Part 1

A transcript is available for this episode.

S1 EPISODE 12

Playbook for Athletic Recruitment

As eight Dartmouth athletes compete in the 2022 Winter Olympics, Lee Coffin asks Interim Athletic Director Peter Roby for game plans that could help high school sports stars gain admission to the colleges of their choice. And in the Admissions Beat Newsroom, there's fact-filled discussion about what a recent Supreme Court ruling may mean for college athletes.


Playbook for Athletic Recruitment

A transcript is available for this episode.

S1: EPISODE 11

Family Reunion

College admissions officers typically form close working relationships that stretch across campuses and decades. In this episode, Lee Coffin catches up with Claire Matthews, the dean who gave him his first job, at Connecticut College, in 1990. Matthews also hired Jim Bock, who is now the vice president of admissions and financial aid at Swarthmore College. The threesome re-unites for a lively conversation about mentorship and about the enduring rewards of a career that has broadened their own horizons as they have helped expand access to higher education around the globe.

Family Reunion

A transcript of this episode is available.

S1: EPISODE 10

Expanding Global Access

Making its own news this week, Dartmouth expands its longstanding need-blind admissions policy to include international students. Lee Coffin explores the far-reaching impact of this change with Greg Manne, who oversaw international admissions for Dartmouth before taking a new job as manager of selection and outreach for Rise, an initiative of Schmidt Futures and the Rhodes Trust, which provides lifelong benefits, including scholarships and mentorships, to promising young people working to solve pressing problems around the world.


Expanding Global Access

A transcript of this episode is available.

S1: EPISODE 9

The College Conversation With Jacques Steinberg

For over two decades, journalist Jacques Steinberg has been demystifying the college admissions process, in his articles and blogs for The New York Times, in his groundbreaking book, The Gatekeepers, and now, by co-authoring with Eric Furda, a former Ivy League dean of admissions, The College Conversation: A Practical Companion for Parents to Guide Their Children Along the Path to Higher Education. Lee Coffin and Charlotte Albright, in their own conversation with Steinberg, find out what every parent of college-bound children needs to know about how to navigate—without nagging—the search and selection process.

The College Conversation With Jacques Steinberg

A transcript of this episode is available.

S1: EPISODE 8

'Twas Two Weeks Till the Deadline

As 2021 draws to a close, college application deadlines loom. Lee Coffin shops for tips for getting to the finish line from a high school counselor, and learns to handle stress from his own fitness trainer. Does "optional" really means what it says on a college application form? Yes, says Dean Coffin, who ends the year with a poem of his own. 

'Twas Two Weeks Till the Deadline

A transcript is available for this episode.

S1: EPISODE 7

Today in College Counseling Land

Lee Coffin invites Sherri Geller, co-director of college counseling at Gann Academy in Waltham, and the author of a popular blog, to share her poignant, humorous posts about the pleasures and pitfalls of giving empathetic, realistic advice to students and parents. They are joined by Ronnie McKnight, the associate director of college counseling at Paideia School in Atlanta, for a candid conversation that brings levity as well as enlightenment to families navigating the emotionally charged world of college admission.  

Today in College Counseling Land

A transcript is available for this episode.

S1: EPISODE 6

Decoding Transcripts and School Profiles

Lee Coffin reunites panelists from a College Board colloquium to discuss the interdependence of transcripts and school profiles. Detailed descriptions of the high schools from which applications flow allow admissions readers to put transcripts in context, with an understanding that not all students come to college with equal advantages or access to advanced high school courses and academic support. In the newsroom, Coffin and his producer, Charlotte Albright, clarify misleading news stories relating to international admissions. Coffin also responds to reports about a movement to change what is shown on transcripts, by adding narrative to numbers.   


Decoding Transcripts and School Profiles

A transcript of this episode is available.

S1: EPISODE 5

Expanding Access

More and more selective colleges are seeking ways to open their doors more widely to populations that used to find it difficult to be admitted, or to afford tuition. For example, Amherst College recently announced it would no longer give so-called "legacy" preference to applicants whose parents attended the school. Lee Coffin talks with Amherst's dean of admissions and financial aid, Matt McGann, about that and other initiatives that are removing barriers for students from many backgrounds and ethnicities.

Expanding Access

A transcript is available for this episode.

S1: EPISODE 4

The Common App

The Common Application, known as the Common App, started in 1975 as a paper form accepted by about a dozen institutions—mostly liberal arts colleges. The aim was to streamline the application process, thereby opening the doors of higher education to a larger, more diverse population. Today, over 900 colleges and universities across the globe accept the Common App, which, as it harnesses technology, continues to expand access for millions of students. Lee Coffin talks with Jenny Rickard, President and CEO of the organization, about changes in form and content that she hopes will make the college application process less daunting and more equitable.

The Common App

A transcript is available for this episode.

S1: EPISODE 3

So Many Questions

Wherever they go, college admissions deans and counselors are invariably grilled by parents eager to get their children into the top schools on their wish lists. Host Lee Coffin and his guest, Jennifer Simons, who advises families for Bright Horizons College Coach, address some of their most pressing and common concerns. And, as always, Coffin and producer Charlotte Albright will review admissions topics and trends making headlines.

So Many Questions

A transcript is available for this episode.

S1: EPISODE 2

Once a Dean

Once an admissions officer, always an admissions officer. Even when deans of admission retire or take other jobs, they often remain committed to higher education, and their collective wisdom is valuable. In this episode, Lee Coffin talks with colleagues who, having left their former posts, speak candidly about pressing issues affecting applicants to college.

Once a Dean

A transcript is available for this episode.

S1: EPISODE 1

What's Next?

It's been almost two years since COVID-19 upended the way colleges recruit and admit students. On most campuses, things are slowly returning to normal, but it's a new normal. Some virtual programming that expanded outreach is staying in place as admissions offices continue to grapple with changing realities. What does the future hold? In "What's Next," the inaugural episode of a new series, Admissions Beat, Lee Coffin and producer Charlotte Albright tackle hot topics in admissions news. Then Coffin and his guests, Emily Roper-Doten, dean of admission and financial aid at Olin College of Engineering, and Diane Scott, co-director of college placement at Boston's Academy of the Pacific Rim, look forward as they ponder the lessons of the pandemic.

What's Next

A transcript is available for this episode.