The Search

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A Guide to Navigating College Admissions

The Search podcast is a conversation about college admissions sometimes drawing on Dartmouth's community as guests but it's decidedly not about getting into Dartmouth. This project is a discussion, blast of advice, and reflection drawn from the Dean's resources at Dartmouth as well as friends and colleagues from other schools and colleges who also love this work we do. While it can't answer every question or cover every topic, it will squeeze in as much context and information as possible.

S2: EPISODE 4

Finding Your Place

College acceptance letters have gone out. Now it's your turn to choose. Listen to your heart, as well as your head, says Dean Lee Coffin. This week, he invites two vice provosts who work closely with undergraduates at Duke University to share advice about how to find the best possible home away from home, where you can find your place while continuing to grow and explore new ideas and interests.

Season 2 Episode 4: Finding Your Place by Dartmouth

 

S2: EPISIODE 3

Decision Daze

Every year, from mid-March to early April, college-bound high school seniors are on pins and needles, waiting for decision letters from selective colleges to land in their mailboxes. In this episode, Dean Lee Coffin asks two fellow admissions officers, from the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Chicago, to explain how they make those tough decisions, and what it means to be admitted, denied or "waitlisted."  A Boston-area college counselor offers tips for receiving, absorbing, and sharing that news. A "no" in selective admissions, the guests agree, should not be taken as a personal failure; rather, it reflects the scarcity of seats as colleges shape and build diverse communities.          

Season 2 Episode 3: Decision Daze by Dartmouth

A transcript is available for this episode.

 

S2: EPISODE 2

My Neighbor Says

A photo of all of the participants on a Zoom screen during the recording of season two, episode two of The Search podcast
College admissions is a high-profile topic that invites speculative chatter. In this episode, "My Neighbor Says," we debunk all kinds of myths, with a mother going through the application process with twins, a college counselor from a secondary school, and three college deans. Their perspectives differ, but they all agree on one thing: don't believe everything you hear about getting into college.

Season 2 Episode 2: My Neighbor Says by Dartmouth

A transcript is available for this episode.

 

S2: EPISODE 1

Reading Season

As winter draws to a close, college admissions officers are wrapping up the invisible but critical process of diving into applicants' files, reading every word, and looking for reasons to say "yes" as a new class takes shape. But what are they really searching for? Dean Lee Coffin pulls back the curtain with Vassar's admissions dean and Middlebury's admissions director for a lively discussion of what they call "the work of the work."

Season 2 Episode 1: Reading Season by Dartmouth

A transcript of this podcast is available.

 

EPISODE 14:

Season One Highlights

Last winter, as COVID-19 struck, Vice Provost for Enrollment and Dean of Admissions and Financial aid Lee Coffin found himself suddenly grounded. Potential applicants to Dartmouth and thousands of other colleges around the country were similarly stuck at home. So Coffin launched "The Search," a podcast he calls "an act of admissions citizenship." In 12 lively episodes, a diverse cast of admissions officers, guidance counselors, students, and parents demystify college admissions. Here are a few highlights from Season One. Stay tuned for Season Two, which will debut, wherever you get your podcasts, on March 22, 2021.

Season One Highlights by Dartmouth

 

BONUS EPISODE:

Ask Me Anything

As he concludes his series of conversations demystifying college admissions in these unusual times, Lee Coffin, vice provost for enrollment and dean of admissions and financial aid, tackles questions from previous guests and listeners. What really counts in a college application? What are the pros and cons of "optional" testing? Join us for the final, bonus episode of The Search.

Bonus Episode: Ask Me Anything! by Dartmouth

A transcript of this podcast is available.

 

EPISODE 12:

Admissions Then and Now

As the world remains gripped by a health pandemic and buffeted by economic distress, many high school juniors and seniors are wondering, "Is it worth it? Should I just take a gap year, and defer college for while?" The answer, of course, varies with each student. In this episode, Vice Provost for Enrollment and Director of Admissions and Financial Aid Lee Coffin invites a director of college counseling, a former dean of admissions, and a journalist who covers higher education to talk about what has changed in college admissions, and what remains the same.

Episode 12 Admissions Then and Now by Dartmouth

A transcript of this podcast is available.

 

EPISODE 11:

Shaping a Community

One of the most important jobs of any school admissions team is also among the most difficult to describe: shaping a vibrant college community. In this episode, Lee Coffin, vice provost for enrollment and director of admissions and financial aid, invites two other deans to help him explain how they do it. The episode ends with a compelling collage of student voices, as they describe themselves in their own words.

Episode 11: Shaping a Community by Dartmouth

A transcript of this podcast is available.

 

EPISODE 10:

Practical Matters

While The Search has focused on liberal arts colleges, many students are applying to more specialized programs, including business and engineering. This episode focuses on what counts in those applications. Lee Coffin, vice provost for enrollment and director of admissions and financial aid, also gathers a wide assortment of colleagues to address issues and questions that have surfaced from previous episodes and invites listeners to submit their own questions for a future episode, called "Ask Me Anything."

Episode 10: Practical Matters by Dartmouth

A transcript of this podcast is available.

 

EPISODE 9:

Scholarship Dollars and Sense

Getting into the college of your dreams is one thing. Paying for it is another. But, too often, families don't think and talk together about the full price of higher education—tuition, room and board, books, transportation—until much too late in their search. And the real cost of attendance depends on the availability of financial aid, which can seem like a maze of eligibility requirements. In this episode, Lee Coffin, vice provost for enrollment and dean of admissions and financial aid, and his Dartmouth colleague, Financial Aid Director Dino Koff, demystify the process.

Episode 9: Scholarship Dollars and Sense by Dartmouth

A transcript of this podcast is available.

 

EPISODE 8:

Junior Jitters

In March, when COVID-19 closed high schools, eleventh graders found themselves stuck at home, unable to meet with advisers who would normally help them find colleges that are right for them. So, they've had to start their research remotely, visiting websites and using social media. In this episode, Lee Coffin, vice provost for enrollment and dean of admissions and financial aid, talks with three rising seniors from the Academy of the Pacific Rim, an unusual charter school in Hyde Park, Mass. Many of its graduates are the first in their families to attend college.

Episode 8: Junior Jitters by Dartmouth

A transcript of this podcast is available.

 

EPISODE 7:

Telling Your Story

In this episode, Dean of Enrollment and Director of Admissions and Financial Aid Lee Coffin, with guest Meredith Reynolds, associate director of college guidance at Roxbury Latin School in Boston, talks with two members of the Dartmouth Class of 2024 about how they crafted unforgettable essays that catapulted their applications to the top of a very lofty pile.

Episode Seven: Telling Your Story by Dartmouth

A transcript of this podcast is available.

 

EPISODE 6:

What Counts?

Lee Coffin, vice provost for enrollment and dean of admissions and financial aid at Dartmouth, talks with Leigh Weisenburger, dean of admissions and financial aid at Bates College, in Lewiston, Maine, and Sonia Bell, director of college counseling at St. Luke's School, in New Canaan, Ct., about evaluating student applications "holistically," considering test scores, transcripts, and recommendations within the context of students' personal circumstances and the programs available in the secondary schools they attend. They also weigh in on the optional submission of SAT or ACT scores during the pandemic.

What Counts? by Dartmouth

A transcript of this podcast is available.

 

EPISODE 5:

Avoiding the Parent Trap

At its best, finding and entering the right college is a team effort, including counselors, parents, and student applicants. But what is the best role for parents to play? In this episode, Lee Coffin, vice provost for enrollment and dean of admissions and financial aid, talks with three parents who, collectively, helped guide five teenagers through the admissions process.

Avoiding the Parent Trap by Dartmouth

A transcript of this podcast is available.

 

EPISODE 4:

Passport to Admission

According to the Institute of International Education, there are over a million international college students studying in the U.S., just over 5 percent of the total student population. But applying for admission from outside our borders can be daunting, because academic degrees and testing standards vary from country to country. In this episode, Vice Provost for Enrollment Lee Coffin talks with three successful applicants to Dartmouth—one from England, one from Zimbabwe, and one from Panama—about how they navigated that terrain.

Passport to Admission by Dartmouth

A transcript of this podcast is available.

 

EPISODE 3:

Does It Fit?

Finding the right college is, at its best, an act of matchmaking. In this episode of "The Search" Lee Coffin, vice provost for enrollment and dean of admissions and financial aid, learns how three very different applicants narrowed down their college choices. Each started with a list of more than 20 possible schools. Two out of three could not visit campuses yet found many other ways—including social media—to figure out which ones were right for them. Their priorities shifted as they learned more, not only about colleges within their reach, but also about themselves.

Does It Fit by Dartmouth

A transcript of this podcast is available.

 

 

EPISODE 2:

Getting Started

Lee Coffin, vice provost for enrollment and dean of admissions and financial aid, continues to share practical advice about finding and getting into colleges that meet the needs of all kinds of applicants. In this episode, "Getting Started," two experienced high school college counselors reveal how they help eleventh graders make diverse college wish lists, zeroing in on the criteria—the "negotiables"—they and their parents value most highly.

Getting Started by Dartmouth

A transcript of this podcast is available.

 

 

EPISODE 1:

Admissions 101

An image captured from a Zoom session during the recording of Episode 1 of the podcast

"Admissions 101" offers an overview of the changing landscape of college admissions as seen through the eyes of two students. Aditi Narayanan '24, from Phoenix Arizona, and Jack Heaphy '24, from Charlottesville, Virginia, talk with Dean Coffin about how they launched their respective searches. Both attended large diverse high schools, and both initially applied to 20 colleges.

Each found novel ways to investigate colleges, beyond what they found on websites and in brochures. Aditi reached out via social media to students already attending the colleges on her list. Jack was drawn to schools that place a priority on both academics and the arts and was less interested in institutional statistics than in what he could glean about student life. Both students, Dean Coffin notes, wrote engaging, authentic essays about themselves that were key to their successful applications.

Admissions 101 by Dartmouth

A transcript of this podcast is available.