An Ivy Dean Demystifies the College Search and Application Process

On the Admissions Beat, veteran dean of admissions Lee Coffin from Dartmouth College provides high school seniors 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. In Season 2, premiering Sept. 20, 2022, with new episodes dropping weekly throughout the fall, Dean Coffin and his guests will help seniors winnow college lists as deadlines approach; weigh variables such as testing and financial aid; polish essays, and, ultimately, hit "submit."

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.